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In Their Words: Reflections on the 2022 People of Color Conference

Third-grade teacher and PDS alumna Christina Lee ’03 reflects on her time at the 2022 People of Color Conference.

This past week, I had the privilege of attending the 2022 People of Color Conference (PoCC) in San Antonio, Texas. I was one of seventeen faculty members to attend this nationwide gathering of seven thousand independent school educators (most of whom were faculty of color) all devoted to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion work for our respective students. In fact, it runs parallel with the student diversity leadership conference (SDLC), to which PDS sent six of our Upper School students, who also learned about their own identity while discovering ways to help their school communities grow to be more inclusive and just. Although it is always hard for me to be apart from my third graders, I knew that I would be remiss if I let this opportunity go. This was my chance to grow both as an individual and as an educator, and to come back renewed, inspired and better trained to help each and every one of my students to flourish in my classroom. 

Princeton Day School constitutes a large part of my own identity, stemming all the way back to my teenage years. As an alumna of the school, I have so many positive memories of my days as an Upper School student here. I am truly grateful for the stellar education I received, as well as all of the programs and activities I took part in. I loved playing on the tennis team, attending the multicultural club (AWARE), playing the violin for the orchestra with Mr. Jacobson and working endless hours during my senior year to publish the yearbook as editor-in-chief. I also treasured Ms. Maloney, my AP biology teacher, who always showed my brother and me so much warmth and care. 

However, I must admit that I struggled with my identity as the only East Asian female student in my grade and one of very few students of color. I always felt so different from my predominantly white classmates and teachers, particularly because I came from the West Windsor-Plainsboro public school district with a much more diverse student population. I graduated wishing I could have genuinely connected to more people in the school…wishing I could have just fit in better.

Fast forward nearly two decades later, I had an opportunity to come back to PDS, this time as a Lower School teacher. I made a resolve, as a faculty member of color, to embrace my differences and to make sure all of my students could feel connected and proud of their identities as well. If any occasion would come my way to grow professionally and achieve these goals, I knew I would surely take advantage of the opportunity. PoCC has proven to be one of the best of these moments for me.

As I first stepped into the massive auditorium with this beautifully diverse sea of educators, I knew that attending this national conference would be a place where I would leave feeling not only refreshed but also empowered and unashamed of who I am. Even at this moment, the highlights of the conference percolate through my heart and mind. I loved listening to several distinguished speakers including civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen, world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni and J. Luke Wood, Ph.D., the vice president of student affairs and campus diversity at San Diego State University. I also savored the time with my micro-affinity group. Sharing testimonies with dozens of fellow Korean American teachers felt so strange and yet so nurturing. Lastly, I loved attending the thought-provoking and inspirational workshops led by fellow school leaders of color. I wish I could have attended so many more sessions and soaked in the whole PoCC experience, but I am still so grateful just to be able to attend.

Now that I am back at PDS, I know that there is much more work to do. In one of the workshops I attended, I became more aware of how implicit bias can impact incident reporting and disciplinary cases in schools. The speaker helped me examine my own perception of student behavior and how I could better serve as an advocate for all of my students. Moreover, the conference helped me realize that Princeton Day School has already made so much progress in this type of work and there are so many initiatives that we are already immersed in that are improving the experience of our students of color. I am so grateful and proud to be a part of this wonderful community, and I am even more committed to being the best teacher for every third grader that walks into my classroom.

-Christina Lee '03

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