OLN 2013 Spring Institute: Teaching Like Lives Depend on It


April 19, 2013


Lolenzo Poe receives the Tom Ruhl Leadership for Equity Award
Lolenzo Poe receives the Tom Ruhl Leadership for Equity Award

“Equity is about giving people what they need,” Dr. Patrick Camangian of the University of San Francisco told members of the Oregon Leadership Network (OLN) at the Governor Hotel in Portland on April 10th. The keynote speaker at the OLN 2013 Spring Institute, Camangian addressed the theme of the event, “Leading for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.” His message? “Wherever you do your teaching, you have to be aware of the culture of the students in front of you.”

Camangian urged the audience to “agitate, arouse, and inspire” their students, teaching “like lives depend on it.” A university professor and high school English teacher, Camangian was inspired to work in educational equity after feeling left out as a student of color in the public school system. His presentation on humanizing pedagogy resonated with the nearly 300 Oregon educators in the crowd.

The twice-yearly OLN institutes bring together representatives from the network’s 16 school districts, higher education institutions, and other organizational partners. This season’s event included several break-out sessions ranging from reducing discipline disparities to developing dual language programs to creating school-based equity programs in partnership with universities. A highlight of the institute was a demonstration by Andy Kulak and his students from Jefferson High School on their “inner circle,” a Socratic teaching method in which a small group of students lead a discussion on a given topic from a circle in the center of the classroom. Participants at the institute were able to join in the discussion by sitting in a chair left empty in the circle, called “the hot seat.”

As much as the adults in the room responded to the format of the discussion, the students seemed to enjoy it even more. As junior Bridgette Lang put it, “When your teacher steps back you have to keep the conversation going.”

Another highlight of the institute was the second annual presentation of the Tom Ruhl Leadership for Equity Award, which went to Lolenzo Poe of Portland Public Schools. The award was established in memory of Ruhl, a founding member and leader of the OLN, who also served as a long-time teacher, principal, university instructor, and mentor.

According to OLN Director Rob Larson, the institutes provide an opportunity for teams of Oregon educators to engage in powerful professional development and networking. Now in its 13th year, the OLN “continues to advance progress for Oregon students by efficiently leveraging resources, facilitating cross-organizational learning, and collectively strengthening our leadership for equity work,” Larson notes.

The day concluded with notes from Dr. Camangian, who spent the day observing OLN members in action. “It's great to see that the work is truly centered on equity and only equity,” he said, praising participants for their focus and encouraging them to take their ideas back to their classrooms. Paraphrasing John C. Maxwell, he reminded the crowd that “young people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”