Conference highlights value of multicultural learning environments

NEW PALTZ — “Building Multicultural Learning Communities in an Age of New Standards” will be the topic of a day-long conference at the State University of New York at New Paltz on Oct. 19. The conference will include two keynote addresses and 12 workshops focusing on diversity issues and the roles of parents, teachers and administrators in creating classrooms and schools where students feel respected and safe, while enhancing academic achievement.

The morning keynote speakers are Linda Christensen and Kathy Swope, editors of the nationally acclaimed journal Rethinking Schools. Christensen is a former high school English teacher and is now a language arts coordinator in the Portland, Ore., public schools. Swope is the co-chair of the steering committee of the multicultural curriculum council for the Milwaukee Public Schools. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience and is now a school administrator.

In their talk, they will discuss the history of Rethinking Schools and offer examples of what educators can do on the grassroots level to create change in their school community.

The afternoon keynote speaker is Nell Geiser, a student activist and journalist from New Vista High School in Boulder, Colo. Geiser, who is a New Paltz native, will speak about including student voices in the dialogue to create multicultural learning environments. She credits her activism to growing up in a very political family and gaining an early interest in injustices in the community and around the world.

Workshop topics will include equity, antiracism and social justice in the classroom; discovering and valuing diversity; youth who work for social justice; children’s books on race and diversity; classroom conflict resolution; and unlearning language stereotypes.

Registration is open to the general public and costs $25 ($10 for students). The deadline for registration is Oct. 10. For registration information, call (845) 257-3033. For additional conference information, call Lee Bell at (845) 257-2831.