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B-N Teachers Speak On The Importance Of Teaching Black History Month

Posters and bulletin boards for Black History Month
Black History Month classrooms from Cameo Williams (left) and Allyssa Svob (right).

Teachers have encountered many challenges during the past 12 months, and the craft has been evolving because of the pandemic. Now it is Black History Month, and for many teachers Black history is more than just a one-month exercise.

Ariele Jones spoke with fourth grade teacher Allyssa Svob and third grade teacher Cameo Williams about how they are approaching Black History Month this year. Svob teaches at Stevenson Elementary School in Bloomington. Williams teaches at Grove Elementary School in Normal.

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Cameo Williams: For me, and I know other educators out there, we definitely want to make sure that we are highlighting Black History Month in February, but it is not the only month we are talking about Black history.

Allyssa Svob: Really ideally we’d want to intertwine Black history into everything, because Black history is American history.

And with that, how does a teacher design a Black history curriculum in 2021?

Williams: I don’t think you can talk about Dr. King without talking about Malcolm X. I don’t think you can talk about the whole civil rights movement without talking about the Birmingham Crusade and Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. So you are talking about the segregation part of it, but you are also talking about the desegregation part, the aftermath of everything. We are constantly diving deep.

Svob: Just really last week we’ve been diving into influential Black Americans, so scientists, inventors, poets, writers, athletes, musicians … so just trying to broaden and introduce my students to more than just who’s typically represented.

Williams: I think as educators, we want to always shine a light on Dr. King, but in another sense of that, we don’t want to walk away with our kids only knowing three African-Americans in history.

A well-rounded history does include the not-so-pretty parts. These teachers are not avoiding those pieces, even with third- and fourth-graders, because they are teachable moments.

Williams: These kids that are coming through right now, they are the world changers.

Hear more of the conversation below:

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Ariele Jones is WGLT's assistant program director and host of Morning Edition, Highway 309, and Center Stage.