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WAPS staff lauded for diversity support (06/03/2012)
Four Winona Area Public Schools educators were recognized earlier this month by the District’s Diversity Advisory Committee for their exemplary “efforts toward diversity education and inclusiveness in our school district and community.” District staff members are nominated annually by peers or community partners for this recognition. This year’s awards go to Amy Araya, Mary Cappel, Scott Lowery, and Lindsay Thibault.

In her second year at Jefferson Elementary, EL teacher Araya has brought with her a vast amount of knowledge and understanding for working with diverse families and children. On top of being fluent in both Spanish and English, Araya’s professional experience comes with the rational and understanding for cultural barriers that might have an impact on the students she works with. This understanding, coupled with her deep understanding of achievement gaps and sense of urgency for social equity, makes Araya an invaluable ally in closing the achievement gap for students of color.

Jefferson Elementary physical education teacher Cappel has been a model teacher for what classroom inclusion should look like. Cappel has an uncanny ability to bring out each and every child’s strengths, while providing each student with the most challenging environment to promote respect, fairness, and inclusion for all. Through carefully crafted, and thought provoking lesson plans, Cappel is able to reach across cultural lines and provide every child the necessary skills and learning that instills the value of team work and a sense of belonging.

As a work skills teacher at the Winona Area Learning Center (WALC), Lowery co-chairs the district diversity committee and has worked tirelessly with the community and District 861 on a variety of social and educational issues as they relate to diverse populations and the community. In the classroom Lowery exemplifies inclusion and acceptance through a vast understanding and empathy for the social and cultural barriers many students face. Whether it is helping a student find a job, or teaching life’s valuable lessons, Lowery’s students know he is someone they can trust day in and day out because of his ability and understanding on how to navigate the diverse and challenging world we live in.

Jefferson Elementary and WALC art teacher Thibault has an uncanny ability to get the most out of any situation, ability, or environment she is given. It is this ability that allows her to show students that anything is possible; you just have to search hard and work hard to get there. But if more proof is needed, one only has to meander around Jefferson Elementary and the artwork displayed throughout the halls will speak for itself. Besides being able to bring out the artist in any student, Thibault is a soft-spoken, caring, and passionate social advocate for underrepresented students and families. Through her own experiences, knowledge, and openness as an artist, Thibault has shown that we can find beauty in everything the world has to offer…the first step is just realizing it.

In addition to providing staff recognition, the WAPS Diversity Advisory Committee supports professional development, curriculum resources, and community events that promote inclusive and equitable schools and communities.

The committee meets every month during the school year, and welcomes interested faculty and community members who would like to participate. FFI, contact Matt Horel, 494-2078, matthew.horel@winona.k12.mn.us OR Scott Lowery, 494-1470, scott.lowery@winona.k12.mn.us



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