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Educators as Influencers

access belonging beyond awareness disability disability awareness diversity educators educators as influencers equity inclusion inclusive mindset inclusivity keynote speaker mindset podcaster special education teachers teaching Mar 28, 2024
Book cover of Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K12 Schools & Communities

How many of you are educators who find yourselves hiding behind dark glasses or dreading the potential student paparazzi when out in public? Or maybe you're the parent who lights up with your child when you spot your child's teacher out and about being a regular human?

I remember once, wearing some old sweatpants with paint stains, a messy bun, and no makeup on, while grocery shopping years ago. Despite my dark sunglasses and intentional anonymity, one of my third graders spotted me and loudly screamed out from the dairy section, "Mom! It's Ms. Carson! Come! Look!" And as I tried to push my cart a little faster, and pretend it wasn't me while avoiding eye contact, around the corner flew her mother as well, wide-eyed and star struck. Gulp...

Why am I sharing this humbling event? Well, I have come to realize that as educators, we hold a certain amount of power and influence. Whether it be how we can get students to memorize their multiplication tables when they'd rather play on the monkey bars all day; read and reflect on a novel instead of obsessing over the latest video game they played; believe in themselves and their abilities when nobody else seems to; educators hold power. We are the ultimate influencers.

I know that when it comes to disability awareness and inclusion, there is so much that needs to happen policy-wise in order for lasting change to happen. And oftentimes, this leaves educators feeling powerless. However, within our classrooms, and often times school-wide, we do have power.

I ask you to reflect on how you can use your rock star influence to open hearts and minds to inclusive thinking and appreciation of all learners (and ultimately, all people).

One tool you can use as you reflect is my Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters Podcast. It has valuable information designed with educators in mind, it's convenient, and it's free. Oh, and my guests on the podcast are amazing influencers as well!!

Here are a few of my latest guests:

Andy Imparato, Executive Director of Disability Rights California, discussed educational equity and civil rights. I was nervous and a bit tongue-tied with this one! But I'm so glad I did it and I know you'll find value in Andy's vast expertise, wide lens perspective, and passion in the field of disability policy as it relates to education.

Leroy Moore, Founder of Krip Hop Nation, shares about his passions and the need for Black, disabled representation, not only in education, but in all areas of our culture. An all around straight-from-the-heart conversation with my long-time friend, Leroy, about his experiences, his drive, and what needs to happen to truly be an inclusive society.

And Jonathan Mooney, renowned author, speaker, and activist, hones in on the concept of disability as diversity. You definitely want to listen to this interview. Jonathan's story as a person with "learning differences" is powerful, and his stand for all students and all people is strong. Hang in there for his words of wisdom for educators.

You don't want to miss these episodes, and please share them with friends who you think will benefit as well. Until next time, whether you're a teacher, administrator, or family member, rock on, rock star.



To learn about Joaquin's journey from institutionalization to community living, watch Diana's TEDx Talk here. Or listen to her podcast interview on the Think Inclusive Podcast here. Diana is an educator, speaker, author, and podcast host of Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters.

For Diana's free resource for educators, The 5 Keys to Going Beyond Awareness, click here.

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