November 2020 Equity Warrior - Jeff Faulkner

“Unless you shine the light on evil, people don’t see it.
We’ve been shining the light for 250 years, but the light just hasn’t been bright enough.” ~Jeff Faulkner



At the beginning of every school year, educators write their very own PDP plans. “PDP” stands for Personal Development Plan and it includes a teacher’s goals for the year. It is one part of the teacher evaluation tool used to track the effectiveness of educators across the state.  

Eighth grade science teacher Jeffrey Faulkner, put advancing equity for students of color as one of the top priorities in his PDP this year—for his students, for his school, and beyond.

As the Equity Lead for C.W. Stanford Middle School, Faulkner said this goal stemmed from the turmoil of the summer with race relations and unrest, and the powerfully charged emotions people feel these days about the world we live in.

This is why Mr. Faulkner has been named the first ever Equity Warrior for Orange County Schools.

So how is he doing on this PDP goal so far, you ask? He is leading the way with energy and enthusiasm.

A self-described “closet revolutionist,” Mr. Faulkner not only uses a weekly newsletter to students and parents for classroom updates, but also for including cultural messages to bring awareness to diversity and in our schools, our communities, our county and beyond.

For example, did you know that Cuban epidemiologist Carlos Juan Finlay discovered that yellow fever is transmitted by a mosquito?

Or how about that the late physicist Luis Alvarez and his son, geologist Walter Alvarez, postulated the theory that the extinction of many plants and animals, including land dinosaurs, may have resulted from the impact of a large meteor?

As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Mr. Faulkner highlighted 10 Hispanic scientists who made monumental contributions to science and history. 

“Until I started researching, I didn’t know this stuff,” said Faulkner. “But now that I do know, I am richer and stronger in my craft because of it. 

He said the feedback from students and parents was very positive and that his efforts were well received by many.

Faulkner also sends periodic communications to the teaching staff in his school to bring more awareness to racial disparities, especially among black and white students. 

“There are historical roots and reasons for these disparities,” said Faulkner. 

“My aim in giving the information is to encourage reflective practice and to educate (others) on why we are where we are.” He said the goal is to reach teachers first, so when the day comes when there is a community meeting about equity, everyone has a background for the discussion.

Two such pieces of information shared were an article from the Racial Equity Institute, titled, “The Groundwater Approach: Building a Practical Understanding of Structural Racism,” and another, by Jay Wamsted, a white educator and contributor to Education Post, “27 Mistakes White Teachers of Black Students Make and How to Fix Them.”

Using the metaphor of a fish and lake, the article from the REI shows evidence of the systemic nature of racism by pointing out how race, as opposed to socio-economic differences, accounts for outcome differences across systems, such as health care, education, law enforcement, child welfare, and finance, to name a few. The article reads, in part:

If you have a lake in front of your house and one fish is floating belly-up dead, it makes sense to analyze the fish. What is wrong with it? Imagine the fish is one student failing in the education system. We’d ask: Did it study hard enough? Is it getting the support it needs at home? But if you come out to that same lake and half the fish are floating belly-up dead, what should you do? This time you’ve got to analyze the lake. Imagine the lake is the education system and half the students are failing. This time we’d ask: Might the system itself be causing such consistent, unacceptable outcomes for students? If so, how?

The contributor to Education Post wrote in his article, “Somewhere between my first terrible year and my triumphant 12th, I became a good educator--a qualified white teacher of black children.”

Oftentimes because of the stark differences among races, a white teacher may inadvertently treat a black student differently or unfairly. Sometimes it is intentional; sometimes it is not, yet it occurs. Wamsted points out facts about the white experience and white privilege--myths, denials and avoidance of “reckoning with” certain truths about race relations and how being a white teacher affects the educational experience for black students. And according to Wamsted, there are do’s and don’ts for white educators who teach black students.

“This is not meant (I did not share these articles with colleagues) to throw it in people’s faces, but it is meant to shine that light,” said Faulkner. “We are all grown-ups; we need to stop acting like babies and treat each other right.”

“We all have cultural clues; we don’t have to change, but we do have to be cognizant of others’ unique backgrounds and stories,” he added.

“I am not religious …” said Faulkner, “but I do believe … that we are here on this planet to help each other be both happy and content. And that is true no matter where you are or what you do!”

Thank you for making the light brighter, Mr. Faulkner!