- Orange County School District
OCS Equity Warrior for March 2021 believes in examining her own journey first
According to Central Elementary School Principal Jayme Bell-Williams, the Equity Team Leader at there, Mrs. Alexis Kagel, is an educator who is committed to advancing equity and improving the school’s services to all students and families. Not only does she make an intentional effort to increase her own personal education/awareness around equity and forward thinking, she also places an equity focus on her daily lessons in her elementary school music room. Here’s why …
A native of Deerfield, Illinois, Kagel grew up as a white girl in a white supremacist bubble. She came to North Carolina to attend Elon College and to be a member of their marching band.
“I went from one white bubble to another,” she said. “Equity is important to me, and what I thought/think is not the only way to think… And you don’t know what you don’t know.”
So Kagel said she tries to get as many different perspectives as possible and to listen to others who have done more work and have more experience in this area.
As a music teacher, Kagel said she teaches culture. “You cannot divorce music from culture. And I teach in a responsible way to uplift who students are and recognize them as individuals with unique cultures and perspectives. It is my job to introduce them (students) to the things they have never seen and heard before.”
Due to COVID, music lessons have morphed into book studies. Through a non-profit organization called The Conscious Kid, Kagel was able to receive a box of 40 books, all of which involve diverse characters and anti-racist themes.
One recent book lesson for K-3 included, “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” by Meena Harris. Themes in the book involve being ambitious, persistent, and using talents in positive ways.
Kagel created a repeated rhythm for the book, and students were assigned to think about what talents and gifts THEY can use to complete a big idea.
Kagel is a second year teacher at Central Elementary School, where she says, “We are a big family--not immune from family dynamics and different personalities--but we are all in it together. And this culture (of family) comes from the top down.”
As the Equity Team Leader for CES, Kagel plans agendas as well as provides a place where team members can come and share their thoughts and feelings about all of the goings on in the world. They also plan outreach and are currently working on this year’s goal of increasing school cultural capacity. The CES Equity Team meets once a month via Zoom. One particularly engaging meeting involved a panel including a teacher, a police officer, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett of the NIH, and an individual who works for the Broncos, and others. During this virtual “assembly,” panelists shared their stories--what it was like to grow up in Orange County, and obstacles they had to overcome. It was very well received.
Kagel added anecdotally that the ONLY thing that keeps her engaged on social media is the non-profit, website and Facebook Group called “Decolonizing the Music Room.” This is one way she works on her personal growth in equity. Not only does this group curate resources, but it makes a space for people to talk and listen. “And the good thing is,” she said, “is that the site holds people accountable for what they say and do. There is no dirty deleting; so what is posted stays up there.”
Congratulations to Alexis Kagel for being named the March 2021 OCS Equity Warrior!
Keep up the good work!
Do you know a staff member, student, community member, school, etc. that is working to advance equity in the district? If so, we want to hear from you! Please email Dr. Dena Keeling, Chief Equity Officer with the subject line: EQUITY WARRIOR! Equity Warriors will be featured each month by the OCS Equity and Communications Departments.