From the Podcast Archives: A Conversation with Leadership Coach Beth Napleton



JEBEH Hello, educators. Welcome back to the cultural curriculum chat. I am so excited that we have  Beth Napleton, Leadership Coach and consultant extraordinaire in our guest chair today. Let me tell you a little bit more about Beth. Beth Napleton is a Brooklyn based executive leadership coach, consultant, and the owner and founder of Beth Napleton Consulting. She offers senior leaders in education and at mission driven organizations a clear path to excellence through individual executive and group coaching experiences. Beth is a national award winning teacher and has been in the education field for over 20 years, having trained over 1800 teachers and leaders to success back, took her leadership skills a step further and became a certified Clifton gallop strengths coach. So she can offer leaders the opportunity to lean into their own strengths, and succeed. Welcome, Beth, I am so excited to have you here with me today.



BETH: I am excited to be here. Thanks for having me. Jebeh.


Jebeh: Oh, thank you for coming. So give us a little bit of background of your story, especially how you came into the educational field.


Beth: Absolutely. So I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, and I grew up in a pretty homogenous environment, mostly white, mostly Catholic. It felt like, you know, were you Irish? Or were you Italian, like that was the big thing. And if and I was a kid who from a very early age was a voracious reader. And so that was always a was spending might, I was escaping into other world cultures and other historical time periods in the future. And I just felt like there is so much out there. And there’s so much in this world. And there’s so much to explore. And so I think that that really kind of was a foray into multicultural education. And I also, you know, as a reader had a strong sense of some of the injustices of history and the world we lived in ignited. And so when I went to college in New York City, I immerse myself in my American Studies work, a focus on what Dr. King called the is art gap, right the way things maybe are and the way it ought to be. And then use them felt like, well, where can I make the biggest difference in the world, and I felt like there’s no better place to be an authentic classroom teacher. And so I joined Teach for America. And I became an educator in the Washington Heights community in New York City when I started my career.

Jebeh: Wow,


amazing. And I just love that when you were talking about just that curiosity, that lead to action, you know, because you can be curious and not take action and go, Oh, that’s kind of how it’s always been. But just like you said, what it ought to be that change of that philosophy. Like Dr. King said, This is what it is, but this is what it ought to be. And I’m just so happy that you chose the art part of the his philosophy in that that’s awesome. Can you just share more about being that classroom teacher and what little changes or big changes led you to this multicultural education?




  especially how you came into the educational field.




Beth: Yeah. So I think what was interesting was that I then started teaching in a community that was probably 90% students who were immigrants from the Dominican Republic, it was the largest community of Dominican students outside of the capital of the DAR at that time, which was pretty incredible. And I taught fifth grade, my first year teaching, which was the oldest grade in the K five school, and then I taught third grade.

And what was so interesting is I’m the oldest of eight children. And so I would go back at Thanksgiving and Christmas and for vacations. And you know, I was 2223 teaching and my youngest sister is 14 years younger than me. And so she was younger than my students at the time. And I remember there was a time I was teaching in fifth grade, and I was really into closing the achievement gaps that we saw making sure my kids will be ready for any future. I started clubs to take them after school to different college campuses and visits. I was like, I am a doer, right.

Sometimes I wish I was a little bit more of a planner before I’m a doer, but I’m a doer and I jump in and I do and I went home on Thanksgiving and I was kind of picking her brain about I was having some struggles making my teaching, engaging and rigorous. And I had gone to a teacher at my school the week before who gave me some worksheets and some ideas for what to do. And then I asked my sister what she was doing in this upper middle school in suburban Chicago, and she was the grade below my students in fourth grade.

And she was doing like long division mental math and  and I was like, we want it The teacher at my school who was like known for being the really rigorous one literally gave me like, worksheets, right with subtraction. And I just think that it personified that gap for me between the different experiences that children have in this country based on the zip code in which they’re born into based on the income level of their parents, right?

And  I think there’s this American idea that education is a great equalizer, and everybody has a chance in this country. And it’s like I’m looking at these kids are at nine and 10 years old. And it the writing is already on the wall about right college acceptance letters and SATs scores, and medical school and all of those pieces. And so you’re thinking the odds are so much steeper for my students in Washington Heights, and they are for my sister, and that is so screwed up.

The rest of my life, I mean, my career to date, over the last 25 plus years trying to, you know, unscrew or righteous or make it more adjust, whether that’s like founding a school and trying to do for the groups of students that I worked with, or doing some advocacy work, and now working with leaders all over.

But I do think there is such a tremendous gap in experiences for students in this country based on their backgrounds, and so problematic. And by the way, in both cases, fairly homogenous communities of students and thinking about the need for how do you make sure that their educational experience and the books they’re reading and what they’re learning about is representative of the whole big broad world around us, not just them by miles in either direction, right. And so I think it’s really thinking about and for my, it’s important for everybody to see Dominican authors represented in the canon, it’s important for everyone to see folks from various backgrounds emigrate and send right like, you’re all these different stories that I think that time and time again, my experiences over time have only reinforced that.


Jebeh: Oh,


I love that, Beth. And yeah, we have a lot in common. I’m the oldest of four kids. And I taught fifth grade for five years. So I’m right there. Yeah. But you’re right. I mean, just even thinking of, you know, when you’re talking about the comparison between your sister’s education and the rigor in suburban Chicago versus your school, where you were in Washington Heights, I also have realize it’s the expectation of those students in front of you. So yeah, like you were saying, the rigor of that teacher in your building at Washington Heights is like, oh, yeah, worksheet worksheet, you know, and the stuff the steps that your sister was doing, because the expectation of them going on, predominantly immigrants, they’re not getting my expectation is going to be so low, they’re not going to get to that proverbial steps of college.

Like, we’re just going to give them the worksheets, just skirt them through. And, and you’re right, that’s our school system has been built on the expectation of who’s going to get in and who just is not going to fit in? Yeah, and I think that, you know, like you said, wanting that rigor and creating a school yourself. And a lot of people have to disrupt in a way in order to make it just for all and I think that’s something that in the education, multicultural educational space is, yes, we need representation.

But we also need to make it equitable for all because when you’re talking about, you know, Dominican Republican, some people just think Dominican Republic equals baseball player, they don’t think of the multifaceted groups of people that have that rich wealth, depth that they can to share, like you said, Dominican Republican authors should be in your classroom, everywhere, we should know.


Beth: Well, and I think sometimes when teachers are in that space, where it can feel like you know, I’ve only got, whatever, 120 minutes, maybe a day to teach ELA and I do and then the phonics and the spelling and the writing, and the this and the authors, and then the tongues crap, and it can feel like, but I think that when we do our jobs, it’s just helping, really the headline is, you’re helping kids see there’s a whole big world out there, and there’s so much to discover, and you’re kind of trying to light the match that and they will carry that flame on, right.

They don’t need to know every Dominican author that ever happened. We don’t need to, but we can share a poem or do a novel study. And then let’s switch to Asia. And then let’s go to Australia, like the world is a big place.

And I think that also kids are able to see and I saw this time and time again with kids in my classroom, just like common human experiences all of us share, right what heartbreak is and the importance of friendship and just those I mean, I was a reading teacher. So this is clearly really biased in my totally speak


Jebeh: In my game. I am I was a reading teacher too. So this is just I love it. Yeah, yeah, totally. And you’re right. The human themes go all across the board anybody can relate to and like you said, we do have such a finite amount of time and I know don’t even get me started on a pacing guide honey.

I didn’t get that piece but you’re right. There’s little things and little steps that we can take to incorporate You know, our global world in our classroom, it is possible. My other question to for you, Beth is, when you’re working with these educational leaders right now, what tidbits of strategies that you could share with us as leaders of even if you’re not a leader, like a principal or a dean, what can educators in their own classroom, continue to use those same leadership skills that you share with them?


Beth: I mean, I think that leadership is at all levels, right. And when I think about some of the most impactful people in the building, they’re not necessarily the ones that the teacher who is inspired generation of kids who alumni come back to visit or the custodian who always like has a hug for a kid who needs it on a bad day. And so I think there’s leadership shows up in our schools in so many different ways. And what I primarily do as a leadership coach and consultant is I help people who are kind of at one place and want to get their school and I mostly work with school leaders. But in district leaders and superintendents,

I’d say, How do I get my school or district from point A to point B, I want us to have a community that is more welcoming, I want us to really have a culture where people are reflecting on their own biases and what they bring to the table. And I’m having a really hard time leading this effort, I want to restructure my team to be more instructionally focused, right and not so compliance driven.

And I think that leaders all the time are used to saying I’m here and I want to get there and I can but sometimes we get to certain topics, and it seems difficult for us, it seems overwhelming. And leadership is lonely. You know, I always tell people, it feels like nobody else has experienced the exact set of problems that you have.

But the reality is that while you are special, you are not unique. Somebody else has had the pain in the butt assistant principal who does not go along with that eating that parent bit like absolutely cause like gives you a headache when you think like somebody else has had this experience. And I think the beauty of having worked with so many folks over so long in my career in so many different leadership lessons is I’m able to draw from this and say, Okay, well, like, here’s some different tools and tricks you can use.

Here’s some things you can do here something fair, because there’s always a way, right? It might be hard, it might be difficult, but there’s always a way. And I think that when folks go into education, they’re often going in because of a greater mission and a greater sense of calling and duty.

And so it can feel so personal and so frustrating when it’s not working. And I tell people like you got to be able to get help, right? If your kid was struggling, you would get them help, right? Like if you your star teacher said I need a coach, you would say I will figure out a way to get you a coach and how do you as a leader, invest in yourself in that way, because you can make such a huge impact on your building?

Jebeh: Oh, very


much. So Beth, and even how you can invest in your building with your staff as well, like teachers, like I need a coach is like, yep, we will figure it out to get you that coach, because I believe in you as well. You know, as my staff, I really love that when you said that. We aren’t in this alone, and leadership can be very lonely, it can also be very vulnerable to stick yourself out and saying no, this isn’t right, we need to change, we need to have some transformational change in this building.

And that I really liked how you touched on it. Because when people do say leaders, they’re like, oh, yeah, I’ve got it all together. I know what I’m doing. And I can, you know, watch me lead the way you know, and it’s not like that. And thank you for bringing some truth to that because it is very lonely.

It takes a lot of courage to, you know, step against the status quo of, oh, this has always been like this, or you know, especially, you know, as a BIPOC educators like, Oh, you’re the only one? Yeah, I know, I’m the only one. You’re all we got. Okay, you know, who else can we recruit in the district to? So it’s not just me, what is our investment in this part? You know, so those are the things I really think a lot of school districts especially need to really look inward and say, Yeah, I need to see how when I do step out of that line of what has always been, we can’t stay in that line, we have to keep moving forward.


Beth: Exactly, I think, right. It’s that saying, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always get right. And then you’re we’re frustrated, but our kids aren’t critical thinkers, there are schools aren’t this or whatever it’s like so then we’re going to have to do things differently. I think often, it can be difficult for leaders because they might say, Hey, I’m here at point A, I want to get to be I know we’re going to get to be, but I don’t see that full.

And I’m afraid to go out and take that first step. Because if I go take that first step, I don’t really know what step two or step three or step four is. And so I’m afraid like, am I going to walk off a cliff here? This is my job. It’s my livelihood at time feeding my family, like what do I do?

And so I think that’s one of the areas that people will sometimes engage me as a coach or bring me into as a consultant because it’s like, hey, I can tell you about step 234. And I don’t have a crystal ball. I also can’t tell you what our step three will be. It will depend on what we find in step one and two, but we will figure this out, we’ll figure it out together, you are the expert on your school, your district, I am an expert on leadership and people.

And this can be done because I think that folks go into education to change the world, I think and whether that’s changing the life of a student or inspiring them to become a scientist, or a teacher, or a leader, or whatever it is, there is some level of inspiration, there is some level of kind of mission there.

And we know we can do better by our kids. And you might be the first but you people see you and see that courage, and then they start to join you. Right? It’s slower than we’d like a lot of it.

But eventually it happens, right?


Jebeh: Oh, yeah. And I always say there’s this Ethiopian proverb that says, hurry, hurry, has no blessing. It takes time, you gotta be in it for the long game, you’re not gonna get that return the next week. And I feel to that step two, three is it’s so unclear that fear of I’m going to fall off the cliff. But then it’s like, well, two and three is going to be a couple school years past, but it will get to two and three, if you just hang on a little longer.


Yes. Oh,


nine. Yeah. And so another question I have for you bet is, I’m just in awe of you.

Because you started this school in Chicago, can you just share, like, what was your driving motivation of continuing that success of these marginalized groups of kids? Like you said, a lot of first generation kids graduated from your school program and have excelled far beyond what was your motivation to just start your own school?


Beth: Yeah, it’s funny, because I feel like it’s one of those things I’ve kind of found in the last 15 years and starting a school. It’s been so interesting to me the number of people and people say, what do you do? I started a school, because I always wanted to start a school. It’s like this hidden dream people. I don’t know if like, professional sports players have the same thing. Like look Molly’s fall.

And I think in some ways, it really the seed was planted when I was teaching in Washington Heights. And frankly, I was doing what I tell I talked to leaders about, because I was a second year teacher criticizing the way the school was all the things could be better, what could be different. And you know, what

I’ll tell my leaders now is the view is easy from the cheap seats, right? And there I was the cheapest of seats I had no, I was only in charge of my classroom. Right? There were like 10 other third grade teachers like there was so much going on. But I was like, well, so I was not quite as humble as perhaps I would wish my earlier self to be. But I think I saw that there had to be a better way.

And so one of the things that I did shortly thereafter, I actually moved to rural North Carolina, and I worked at a charter school there. This was like 20 years ago, charter schools were very new. But it was an incredible school on a pina field was largely first generation African American students who were all college, it was had just finished its second year, and I wanted to be a part of it, I could tell it was very successful. And I said, I wanted to go there so that I could see how I knew a lot about how I didn’t want things to be, but I wanted a model of what I thought it could look like.

And that was a really transformative experience where I taught the same students fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. And so I really got to see them grow. I mean, now my babies are in their early 30s, having their own babies, it’s like wedding law school graduations, it’s incredible. But to your point of the change, like I always tell younger teachers, like you know, you think that your gratification is going to be in year one or year two, or year three, but man, you give it a few years beyond that, and those alumni come back from high school, then they come back from college, and then they come back and they work alongside you.

That is really when you feel that sense of fullness and completion and the arc of development and the interconnectedness of life and all the magic of it. And so it really was just such a gift. I was in this town. It was a town of 1000 people I literally had one stoplight, and I was in my late 20s.

And my dad, I was from Chicago, my dad kept saying there’s lots of white kids in Chicago who need a good school, why can’t Why don’t you move back here. And so and I was like, I want to be someplace where I can picture myself for the rest of my life. And so you know, and I didn’t see myself long term curves. I knew the good sushi restaurant within a 30 minute drive. That was like a little life goal of mine to get back to you. So I went to a school that on paper was very mission aligned right and was very similar, but the experience of going to the school was just the adults weren’t led well. It was very compliance focus. I love to read I will read it every opportunities that they’d say we’re gonna go take the kids out of bathroom break and they’re gonna read line for the bathroom. And I’m like, nobody does this. Why are we going to do it because they’re black and brown kids right from Chicago, you got to ask, you know, it’s gasp bathroom breaks and be chaotic there.

No one’s here a time of day, whatever. And let’s really examine what we’re doing here because exactly some of the issues going on. And so I kind of felt like I did my homework to try and And the best place in Chicago and the Chicago area that I would really only do this and like this is a match. And so I mean, it sounds so crazy says maybe I should just start a school.

That can be the school I work at once, like, by the way, right? Like, I’m thanks 2020 I like the 10 million steps that came after and the heartache and the cash flow and of this and the politics. I think that is a planted that seed and certainly there is the need, like there are in so many communities for schools that better prepared kids for you know, college and where others are meaningful. Oh, yeah.


Jebeh: And Beth, you are the doer. You said you’re a doer. You know, the other stuff comes comes later this


Beth: Doer at some point was like, whoa, what did I do?


Jebeh: I love it. I love it. So thank you so much, Beth, for being on the show. Where can our friends find you if they want to learn more?


Beth: Absolutely. Any of the leaders who are listening and regardless of like we said leader is not necessarily position specific. Right? I think I do a lot of leading right now. And my role is which does not come easy. So if you go to leadership dash quiz dot, I have a quiz. It’s like less than two minute quiz on what you need most as a leader. And so that’s someplace that folks can go and take that quiz. And I’ll send you some results and some curated advice.

And that also leads to my website, which is, which has podcast appearances. It has resources, videos, blogs, and a little bit more about what I do in case folks are interested in potentially working together.


Learn more about Beth Napleton here:

Take her leadership quiz:

Instagram: @beth.napleton

Listen to our Podcast interview below:

Three Free Ways of Understanding DEI

What are three ways of understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion without going broke? I’ve got three free resources for you right now!

I know you’re looking for the best and most vetted tips and tricks for understanding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The first thing you can have and use on your phone are podcasts, now those under multicultural education content. I’m a Podcast host of The Cultural Curriculum Chat. And there are plenty more podcasts that are versed in the subject of Dei. My biggest tip for you is to research and find BIPOC hosts hosting these podcasts so you can have that whole, authentic perspective. Another tip for you is to journal your feelings and understand that the diversity equity inclusion space in anti-racism and social justice takes time. Understanding the journey you start and where you keep going is essential in doing this work. So, always, when you have a hint or an idea, remember to write it down.

Last, I have also conducted a free workshop titled  3 Massive Mistakes to Avoid When Learning about DEI. Our workshop is designed to help you understand companies’ biggest mistakes when implementing DEI efforts and provide actionable solutions to avoid them. There’s no way to be overwhelmed in this process, but I can understand how you might feel that way. These tips can help you get the ball rolling in taking action that doesn’t cost you a dime. 

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

I’d like to reintroduce myself because I love providing so many of my clients with vetted multicultural resources and creating multicultural resources to promote positive change. Now,  when it comes to my learning style, I love to research, and I also love to connect with folks. That’s why I’ve been an educator for over 18 years. And when I connect with folks, I’m a storyteller and go through my own experiences to share situations that I have been in, in the workplace as a community member, as a wife, and as a mother.

The resources I create for my trainees and clients to continue understanding that we are black, indigenous, and other people of color who deserve to be seen, heard, and valued. Our neighbors, relatives, and friends are going through similar situations, and we need to unlearn and relearn the best strategies to make those authentic connections. Now, if you would love to learn more because I have served over 40 organizations, I’m just getting started more about my training style and to see if it’ll fit you.

Go down to the link below for more information.


I’d love to have you on my schedule. Take care, and I’ll see you soon.

From the Podcast Archives: My Conversation with Author, Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton

 On today’s blog I share my conversation with author, illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, I’ve been such a fan of her books, that I’ve shared in my classroom library over the years. Take a listen below.

JE: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the culture curriculum chat podcast with your host Jebeh Edmunds, I cannot wait to share with you all. An amazing author and illustrator whose energetic prose and pictures will motivate you and inspire you every day. We have with us in the guest chair Mrs.Vanessa Brantley Newton.. Welcome, Vanessa.

VBN: Jebeh It’s such a joy and pleasure to be here with all of you. Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s, it’s indeed a pleasure.

JE:Thank you. So before we get diving into it, I’m gonna share your background real quick with our audience. Vanessa was born during the Civil Rights Movement and attended school in Newark, New Jersey, being part of a diverse tight knit community. During such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read snowy day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read. So they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader. So I loved reading your biography of Ezra Jack Keats snowy data is one of my favorite books. And can you kind of share with our audience that spark that catalyst for change that made you the author illustrator that you are?

VBN:Oh, my gosh, it’s such an awesome question. And every time I give an answer for this book, because I’m asked that question so many times, it was the 1960s when this book came out, and I actually 1963 the year I was born, and gone to predominantly white schools where I was the only black child in the classroom, and not seeing yourself. As a child, I would walk up to my mom and I would often ask her, Am I invisible? You know, something, something wrong, people can’t see me. And it was because we weren’t granted children’s books where we could actually see ourselves. Everything was if you remember, and you’re my age. I’m 60. This year. Dick and Jane? 

JE: Yes 

VBN:He dumped the magazines, Jack and Jill magazine, and all of these different magazines that came out focused on white children and their stories, you know, and so we as brown children, black children, never really got to see our hair textures, skin, what our parents look like, because I was raised with two parents and two parents who were Christian, you know, and so family was everything, whether you were Christian, Muslim, whatever. Family back then was very important. And my mom and dad would not spend their money on books that did not reflect that. Mrs. Russell, one of my favorite teachers, had one of the biggest afros I think I ever saw in my whole entire life. It was orange. She wore orange dresses that were so short that you did not want her to bend over to go go boots. And she was the coolest teachers I loved, loved love Mrs. Russell, and she wasn’t the nicest teacher in the world. But she knew children who learned different, and I learned different, I am dyslexic, I have something called synesthesia, which is the ability to see smell, feel, taste and your color. And I also am a stutterer. And so she knew that. And I remember the day Jebeh, she picked me up and put me on her lap and open up the snowy day. I am 60 years old. And I still get emotional. But it was the first time that I ever saw a black child. Beautifully painted that look like me. I even had a snowshoe. And so I thought Peter was a child that got lost in the book. That was my brother. And I just need to open that book and I could go and visit him anytime I wanted to reclaim the snow together. It was it was everything that book. As a matter of fact, I’ve cut my husband often when I leave here and go to be with the Lord put my Bible and a copy of the snowy day in my palm because I want to read it to the Lord. When I get there with what I get to have it. It’s that special to me. That book is that special to me. I love that book. 

JE:Yeah, such a beautiful written book. I read it I had the big book when my first grade class just the innocent It’s a child playing in the snow and seeing his tracks and you know and what I see how you have transformed your work. It does give you that childlike glow about it. And it’s bright it’s vibrant and just how you even you know described your teacher in the Orange throne with a golden boots

VBN:Yeah yeah Orange throne with a golden boots. Girl The fashion you have in your character. Yes, honey. Yes. Hello Jabba mascara. 

JE:It’s it’s so vibrant. You’ve got African textiles in it in some of these. You’ve gotten jeans down to the stitching, and I need your attention to detail is just perfection. And what I love about your books, Vanessa, is it does it makes you set a little taller? Because even in 2023, there is this urgency to have more I have colleagues and neighbors and people ask me, Jebeh, where are the books that don’t look like my kids? And I’m like, ooh, do I have books for you? Because we want to have all of our kids to know that Vanessa is in Jebeh’s, we exists. Yeah, existing daily themes. You know, I as an educator, I always would have, you know, my students see me out in the community. And it’s like, yeah, I exist. I do human things. For it to be in a book to open that conversation. I feel like you have done it, my dear. With your becoming Vanessa book. Everybody has their first day of school. Everybody have the jitters? Everybody wants to have their special outfit and with your feather boa and your parents saying, Oh, yes. What are you going to do that special today? And I really, when I read your book, it really took me back to my first day of school experiences. I had a different knee, you know, and how to write it down. And I just love how you juxtapose having two S’s and how you’re still writing your name. Everybody else who’s done.  Every year, we all have students like that they’re still working on their names. Other kids are at the door waiting to go to recess. You know, kids can relate to Vanessa’s story and, and what I love about how you wrote this, and I don’t want to give away too much audience, I want you to get this book, your mother sits you down and shows you and shares with you how important your name is, and why she means that. And I feel as as parents, we need to sit our kids down and say, Do you wonder why I gave you that name? You know, and I feel that gives that child that confidence. And whoa, I know my name and the meaning and why I’m named that and arrogant. eggless. Can you talk more about Yeah, becoming Vanessa. I just love that biographical feel to it.

VBN:I have to tell you and even in what we were first talking about, is I wanted to give children with Ezra Jack Keats .Yes, that that was the whole thing. If I could leave them feeling the same way as you made me feel. The day I got that book. I remember Jebeh going to the library and picking up that book, close to probably 25 times and the librarian threatened me. And he said if he take his book out one more time, she said there are other books that he’s written. Would you like to see them? I read them. And the next week went right back to snowy day. Yeah. You know, in becoming Vanessa. Name names are so important. And this is not to down Americans or America. As far as named, but concerned, this is not not about that. It is when you don’t know you continue to do the same things over and over and over again. When you do know the value starts to come. And then the worse starts to come.

VBN: And then the pride of you know what you have and that’s why naming your child. It’s something so very, very special. It’s looking at that child and it’s there’s something special special about you. And even that is because your mommy and daddy’s baby. There’s something special about you. I remember going here in low country, South Carolina, and I was in art gallery for African American art delegates. You my family’s delegates you from no country governor. Yeah. There was a woman that was in there she was beautiful, gorgeous woman had wrapping all I said, Alexa, what’s your name? And she says my name. I’m trying to remember how she said it. The thing is a great title. And I was so moved when she told them what her name cuz it’s really like a bell when she said it. She said my name is if a title I’ve said oh my god. What is that mean? She said it’s bringer of joy. As I told you, you don’t know how much joy you brought me by sharing your name with me said that name over and over, even if a title if a title. And I was like if I ever have another baby, I’m naming my baby if I type. Because if you’re naming your children names that don’t have any meaning to it, or something derogatory, that’s what you’re calling your child all the time. I lost several children, buried a daughter who would have been 23 years old. I have a 22 year old now named Zoe. VBN:And when I had Zoey, I knew that I wanted to name her Zoe. And the first thing people said to me, Jebeh was, oh, you named Chris Zoe. After Zoe on Sesame Street. I said, No. It’s a biblical name. Zoey needs the God kind of life, there was no depth in it. And I got to hold her. And now that she’s 22 years old, she has become her name. And so when I see her, I tell her constantly, baby girl, you are becoming your name, the God kind of life, there is no death in it. And so when I got my name as a child, I was in what a flight one of the one of the things that I used to do, I would go to school, and when the teacher would give me paint, I would put all the paint in the middle of the page, and then add some stuff together and then pull the page over instant butterfly, and butterfly butterflies. And my mother said neck girl, no, she loves butterflies. My mother was pregnant with my little brother, who was a stillborn as well. And I remember her going through the book and I told her I hate money. She said, You hate your name. Why do you say it it has two x’s in it? Two A’s. It is Harpy. People always ask me why your mama name up next. And I was embarrassed at the name. I remember one of my teachers, one of my teachers, white teacher told me she said that name is too big for you. And when she said that, you know when you said to a six year old that always thought something was wrong with me. And she goes NASA, what a rich name to give a child like you. And the thing to hurt me so bad. I didn’t even know I was hurt Jebeh until I got home.

VBN: And I told my mother I didn’t like my name. And my mom and dad sat me down and then I’ll never forget. They said your name is Vanessa. Do you know what Vanessa means? I had not a clue. She said what’s your favorite thing to draw? Vanessa? Butterflies. So that’s what Vanessa means. It means butterfly, the pride and the joy that I felt in my soul. I still get teary eyed when I tell the story because my self esteem was so in the toilet. I failed completely through school at Cindy’s until I got out of high school. And didn’t want people to call my day. Because I thought something was wrong. When they come by then, of course, she’s dyslexic girl. Oh, she’s a girl. That’s synesthesia now, that crazy stuff. And she started. So every reason to pick on me. So there was like, I don’t know why my parents gave me this name. But in grasping it and now learning it. I just want to empower babies, to know their names. And to know that there was worth to every single one of them. It is so planted in my heart. It is what I pray about in the morning. If God gives me a heart of Christ, where children are concerned, because I love children. I don’t want to see them abused. Don’t call them out in their names, even when it’s something that has really angered you. Take your time and breathe and say what you need to say to them soundly of course and everything. And I am a believer in spanking by. Yes, I got old school. Okay. The second thing, my desire to see children thrive and grow is from a very we’ll we’ll place because I’m five years old, I’m still

JE: And you have done it beautifully. Any time some your gift and I apologize that you felt that way as that child and I remember when I was going into education, my mother she was a teacher just retired a couple years ago and she always said it’s it’s yeah, a big blessing. My favorite teacher was my mom in it. Like, she always said, you know that one may need to see your face that you exists that you’ve done wrong in that role in two. I always thought of the words of Maya Angelou, they’ll never remember the lesson you taught them how you made them feel

VBN:that you made them feel

JE: Yes.And as an educator, and now you as an artist showing your work, you’re sending hope to those kids that felt small, you’re sending hope to those kids that sell to others. You know, what could you you know, I’m at the bookstore. I like yes, I would all the titles. Yep. And I was telling every cashier, I’m interviewing her on my podcast, like I said, Yes. You know, I want to share your work, because even back in the day when you illustrated that one love my mom. 


JE: I had my first grade class, you know? 

VBN:Wow, wow

JE: No, you’re my fan girl moment. I’m like, Oh my gosh, but even thing. I’m just so honored and your work is just bright, and vibrant. And it’s so happy. It’s sharing, and even your solemn pictures that you have on your website. They make you think they make you get rooted down, you know, to understand your not the breadth and depth of your work. But even to switch gears on you’re just like me your book of poems. I just love how self affirming it is. And I feel like you were writing this to your younger Vanessa. Yeah. I mean, I’m just gonna quote one quick sentence from all I mean, there’s so many I love me mas wisdom it reminded me of my favorite that one and yes, oh my gosh, and yes, I am a canvas and just I even I have two you know, biracial boys and 14 and 11 and even reading it out to them you know, it’s just like yeah, there’s gonna be days where you’re not feeling it. You’re feeling you know, bluesy kind of way just to show you that yeah, it will get better you know and you have to be painted of your words is just beautiful. Warrior I mean went up in those moments I’m just like, I’m willing for a good fight to speak up and stand up for myself yeah, yeah good fight when love and oh, it’s just in Italia. I am like freaking out in a good way. Because how you have this this not just for girls only. I mean, you have a written in the girl’s voice. But all students can you know, take it every student can take away from it. Yes, every suit he can take away from it. Feelings are so many poems that teachers can write about analyze, and come up with you know, ideas of their own, you know, feelings after they’ve read it. That comfort of having your grandmother’s face to face conversations. over texting I’m Lea. And among those are the things that we need that human connection. And it brings me back to those moments with my grandma sitting on her lap and having her Sandy’s cookies, I can not go past the grocery store having Sandy’s cookies, you know, and I just love it and your paper, your paper chains is  just beautiful. Yeah, everybody needs to have that just like we’re holding each other pulling each other up. And I quote, and it’s a powerful link that we are together. It just culminates who we are as human beings, you know?

VBN: Absolutely, absolutely 

JE: I can’t get enough of your book. So please keep sharing more. Is there anything else that you would want educators to know, with your books, or anything that is in that multicultural literacy space that you would want them to know, like, strategy that they can do tomorrow?if 

VBN:Absolutely, you know, it’s important that we talk to each other? No, I’m not talking about Texan. I’m talking about really, you know, now that COVID is somewhat controlled to a degree conversation is necessary. It’s necessary for parents to really you know, I know you got in from work and you’re tired, and you don’t want to go to that school meeting or that PTA meeting. But this is where we get to talk to each other. And you get to hear the teacher, and the teacher gets to hear you. And hopefully we’re listening, where we’re not just talking at each other. But we really come in with an open heart to listen, because at the end of the day, it’s about the child. It’s about the child. We teach racism. We teach it, we teach it extensively. You know, when I hear parents say, well know where that came from. I’m walking through the supermarket. And this little boy says the N word. Mommy is that and she kind of looks at him like she Shut your mouth. You know, you don’t say things like that in public. You know and and she was in, I don’t know where he got that from none of that no wigs we got and get it from the teacher. He got it from yourself. For 25 years job as a professional phlebotomist, that’s the person who takes blood. And my specialty were children, women with cancer, people with AIDS, everything, nobody wants to be bothered. Okay, when you’re holding a premature baby in your hand, and I have tiny hands, and a baby can fit in my hands. And I’ve been when I tell you, I took care of children of every ethnicity that has walked this planet. I have, I’m taking care. Okay. The one thing that I’ve learned that’s what I want to leave with your listeners is, babies want three things, children, one of the things. Is there a clean diaper when I mess this one up? Right, or is there a bottle or breasted here with some milk in it? Are your arms in your heart strong enough to hold? Well, that’s all this other stuff? Oh, you think about slavery? Why babies were put on the black brush. But were treated like animals. Basically, the women were treated like animals. I’m doing what you should do for your own. 

JE: Yeah.

VBN: We need to break this thing of racism, and send it back to the pit of hell from once again, begin to see people as people get to know my character. Let them know who I am, before you just start jumping off with oh, they’re black. Oh, they’re white or Asian, Latino or Hispanic. So they had nothing. Oh, get to know me first. 

JE: Get to know me first. 

VBN:So the message that I want to leave them first of all is to all your educators. I appreciate every last one of you. You work so hard to put lessons together. And there are times you can’t teach your lesson. Because you got a parent. Student It takes away from you even tried to teach. But I want you all to know we appreciate there are a bunch of us that know the hard work that you all put in the late night the whole thing just wanting to see children succeed. I love you all. I thank you all I pray for you all that God would continue to cover you. When can you give me more money because you deserve it? Or that? Anywhere in where you want to go? You shouldn’t have to pay a dime.

JE: I know our educator friends are like Thank you. We feel seen because yeah, you can have the best boss, beautifully written lesson plan but something always happened. Okay, that away pivot, how do I keep it going? How do I still get my work in that my students need to achieve before they move on to the next grade. And I can tell you, they tip my hat. It’s a profession that is honored by the educators who do it every day. We just hoping that honor will be reciprocated by more people that have reciprocated it. We feel it. We love it. And we appreciate y’all because y’all keep us going in those trenches especially lovely. So I love my love. Yeah.Oh my goodness, this has been an amazing talk. Where can my listeners get your books? 

VBN:Absolutely. You can get my books at most indie bookstores. You can find it at Amazon and on Barnes and Nobles websites as well. You can always go to Penguin Books and find my books there. But I would love it if you would follow me over at Instagram at Vanessa Brantley You can find me on Facebook at Vanessa Newton. And Vanessa Brantley Newton, I have actually two pages. And that’s about it for social media. But I also have a website of Vanessa Brantley, 

JE: I will put all of that information in our show notes too, as well. Oh, Vanessa, it’s such a blessing to get to know you and laugh with you and just cry with you and tear up with you with your most beautiful, heartwarming, inspiring stories. And you’re one of those students that you know, really did defeat and beat the odds of having someone say who you are, but you define it in your way. 

JE:Even when I went to Barnes and Noble in Duluth, Minnesota, your books are on those selves got going on last night. 

JE: I cannot thank you enough

VBN: Oh,  dear Thank you. Thank you.

JE: I’m honored to just share this chat with you today. So that’s all we have today, folks. And yes, I’ll see you next week. Bye bye. 

From the Podcast Archives: My Conversation with Author Naomi O’Brien

On today’s blog,  I share my conversation with Author & educator Naomi O’Brien whom I had on my podcast last December. She’s a great person who shares her love of literacy and her impact on all of us is a joy. Read below.


JE: Hello everyone, my name is Jebeh Edmunds and welcome to the Cultural Curriculum Chat! Today, we have a wonderful guest, I am just so happy to introduce to you another rockstar teacher, Mrs. Naomi O’Brien! I am seriously fangirling right now! Naomi is a wife, a mom, author, creator and presenter, an educator who currently lives in Los Angeles, California. She enjoys using her creative skills to teach students how to read and how caregivers and other educators teach important lessons to children. So, welcome to our show, Naomi!


Naomi: Thanks so much, I’m so excited to be here!

JE: Thank you! So, please share with our audience, you know, what’s your story and how did you grow up and perceive multicultural education?

Naomi: Yeah, so my story is that I’ve always really enjoyed my upbringing in the fact that my parents are not American, they’re from Antigua and Saint Kitts in the Caribbean. So, I always was very aware of ‘this is my culture, this is not my culture’. Because our home was very much Soca music playing, Caribbean cups, and I became very aware at an early age that that is not what was going on in my other friend’s homes.


             Another unique layer to that is that my dad is in the army for 20 years, so we traveled around and lived in so many different places and met so many different families from all over the world, and it was kind of this culture shock actually when he retired and we were off of an army base because it was all segregated, like I grew up with my neighbor who was from Korea, this other neighbor was from Hawaii, this neighbor was from India, this neighbor was from Germany, and then suddenly it was a very “Oh no, where did all the culture go? It’s not like this in the real world, outside of the army base?” I got to see a lot of cultures and I feel like well my education wasn’t exactly multicultural, my lived experience was just due to my family, visiting family in New York, going back to the Islands to visit people, and just living in my neighborhoods. So, I felt like I was able to see that contrast and kind of say, “I’m not represented at school”, or “my neighbors not represented at school”, and probably picked up on things that other children normally wouldn’t, for sure.


JE: Hmm, definitely. And, it’s kind of neat, because I grew up in a Liberian household too, so that Soca music, I remember that as a child too, and I loved that. And, also, when you talk about not having that representation in your classroom, that sparked something in you, didn’t it, to create something? Not quite knowing yet, right, but knowing that there’s something missing there. And, let’s talk more about that now, with your experience going through our school system in the United States, what were things that you observe, you know? Like, when you talked about things that were missing, did you have BIPOC teachers in your space growing up, in your childhood as well?

Naomi: I really didn’t. Something I did have though is a lot of male teachers, especially in elementary school which isn’t always everyone’s experience, but no they were largely just white educators, probably were and we lived – I was born in Texas, we lived in Germany, we lived in Louisiana, Washington State, Georgia, and then eventually Florida, and it was largely White, not until I got to high school that I got some teachers of color but even then it was a majority White experience, and that was something – like talking about like race and different cultures are something my parents are very open about, so it’s something that my mom would point out all the time and she was constantly telling us “you need to carry yourself this way, you need to speak this way, because you will be perceived this way in America by Americans”, you know. And, they have to figure that out when they came from their Island which is 100% Black people, they didn’t have those issues and then to come to the States in their early 20s and suddenly realize “Oh wow, there’s different rules here, and people treat you differently here”, where they never had to deal with that. I mean, they probably have the colorism issue going on but not just the hierarchy of colors.


JE: Yeah, in that, the nuances, correct? That, those underwritten rules when you come in as an immigrant, of knowing how to perceive yourself and how others will perceive you. That’s powerful.


      Now, as a creator and author, what tools have you used to create this space? Tell us more about your Reading Like a Rockstar platform with our audience.


Naomi: Yeah, so it really just started as a place to share, just straight-up regular reading ideas but as I grew in that space and as I got to explore social media and Instagram more, and I saw other teachers and like really White teachers with bigger accounts, some of the stuff they were sharing was so problematic, or it wasn’t multicultural or it wasn’t accepting or inclusive of everybody. And I was like “that’s a really big problem”, and I was always searching for that person with a really big platform that was going to do something about it, that was going to be the example. And, it wasn’t happening, and I was like – and I was really small at the time but I was like “I can be the example, I’m not seeing it, so I’ll be that” because he just would put out there “50 books you must read to your students this schoolyear”, and it wasn’t representative of everybody at all, you know? It’s like Children and Animals, and then it was like where are the students of color, where are different genders, different abilities, different body sizes, just different languages even, it just wasn’t missing? So, I was like okay, well I can step into that role and kind of like say the stuff that I wish that I saw because these people are influencing so many other people’s classrooms and not necessarily in the best way even though that wasn’t there intent, you know? So, that’s when I really started to share about and as I saw more problematic things or the way people would make fun of student’s names, and usually that’s going to be the name of the student that isn’t a typical American name, and it was like that’s just showing me that you don’t value culture and you’re not thinking about maybe that parent gave that child that name for a reason that is special in their culture, and it’s not typical for you but it is as typical and special, and an honor in their culture. So, just having to post up about that and hoping to open people’s eyes because these people are in those classrooms impacting other people’s children, you know? And I was like I have to say something, I can’t just not say anything, and it’s kind of like what I wish my teachers saw when I was little because something I always talked about with one of my best friends, is I don’t think a single teacher of mine ever even knew where I was from, they didn’t know what was going on in my house, no stories or lessons were even brought up about like where I lived except for like “Transatlantic Slave Trade, and they went to the Caribbean first before they came here” but other than that, I was never seen or represented, and I was like I can like make a difference like well in. From that, people were really hungry for that, it’s like it was kind of like they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and then once they had a place to learn from, they were excited to learn more. So, that’s really how I grew.


JE: I am just so proud of you because your work and even your partnership too with Teaching With an Apron, it’s just – even the biggest topic too, especially in honor of Indigenous Heritage month, the First Thanksgiving, I loved your unit “Fact-or-Fiction”, you know, and when I taught 5th grade there was a lot of those multiple lenses that I tried in my classroom to share with students. And, how you have it laid out where kids can look at pictures and decipher and ask these open-ended in-depth questions, and as educators we really want our students to think critically but how you craft it Naomi, and your partner, you take it up another level. I mean, it’s like wow! Even as an adult, and your young self, you’re self-reflective of wow, this is the stuff like what you said, what you didn’t know and now you’re hungry for. And, that’s what I’m excited of your work to share with my audience too because this is stuff that’s actionable, it’s right in real-time that teachers can download right away and share, parents can use the materials as well to have these conversations with their kids. I feel like in this multicultural space right now with education of all kids, parents are very stuck and overwhelmed and as a mother yourself – you’re a mother of two boys and so am I – as a parent, what do you want their teachers to know?

Naomi: Yeah, well thank you for saying that about the lessons because that is something we go out of our way to make sure it’s happening, like really put it back on the students, present the facts, and then put it back on the students to have these critical discussions, like we’re not here trying to change people’s minds but give them all of the information. Because, we think about the single narrative we were given growing up of this is what happened, memorize it, take it for the test, and that’s that. But, that’s like no, like history should be this debate, it should be all these thoughts and perspectives always, who is missing, is there bias going on here, is this factual to get to like arrive at your conclusions. But then, as you go along, it is definitely something – I wouldn’t say a battle with – but it’s something that is always at the forefront of my mind, what my son is going through. My oldest one is in 2nd grade right now and my youngest one is 3 but even with that, we just got a little flyer saying the 3-year-olds are going to have a Thanksgiving performance, and that immediately made me say “oh my goodness”, and I have to go and ask what are they going to be singing about, are they going to be dressed up like indigenous people because if so, we’re not going to be participating and you shouldn’t do that and here’s why, which luckily it wasn’t that, it’s just about being thankful. But, there’s this constant stuff that you’re up against that is traditional or classic, or people just think “oh, it’s just good fun” – so, there is, constantly, like that, looking through homework and making sure that stuff is accurate so that I can talk to the teacher about it or talk to my son about how “hey, your work said this but this wasn’t necessarily true.” Honestly, I haven’t had too much of that, so that’s been really good. And, I don’t know if the teachers love it but I always say “hey, I know this month is coming up, I created these resources, use if you can” I never say like “I hope you use these”, I’m like “use this if you can”, and they’ve always been appreciative in the grade level so far.

JE: Oh, definitely! And you know, being in the classroom as well, it is so fast to keep up with our pacing guides and our standards, and benchmarks that we have to achieve, and I constantly when I was in the classroom, looking for resources to still fulfill those standards and benchmarks but also have that critical eye of “who is missing?” “Why aren’t we talking about their perspective?” “Who can I invite from the community to share that perspective so the kids have that multi-faceted view?” And, I love that because as a parent, you’re seeing things and you’re knowing months are coming up, and you kind of hold your breath a little bit going in, okay, is this teacher going to be culturally responsive or am I going to have a little conversation with her or him, off on the side. And, even as a parent, I know my boys are like “oh, here we go, mom, why do you want to know, why are you asking?” It’s like “Is this play coming on again, because I remember that play in the 80s, and it didn’t go, you know”, so, those are the things –


Naomi: …and then I’m like “well, I can’t just stop with my son”, I was like “now I have to talk to the teacher too because what about the other kids?”

JE: Yes, because, and you know as a teacher and I know there’s going to be teachers that are excited about your help, and there will be some teachers with that push back because one, I’ve given that excuse but they’re afraid, you know, they’re used to oh, this is my bucket for this particular subject, now you’re going to have to audit my bucket now? It’s like yeah, we got to get rid of that bucket. But, I love, like I said, the big takeaways that you have with your work, your social media presence, that’s how I found you and it’s positive, and it also has those questions too of having those reflective moments. And, I really thank you for that. I love your depth and complexity, critical thinking resource because when I taught primary grades, a lot of our students that were in that middle, you know were getting what they needed but the kids that needed that extra push. You know, I had a first-grader who was reading The Hobbit – loved him you know! And, his parents were college professors, but like I wanted to give him that extra push. And, what you do for those kids in that small group that need the extra push, I have to thank you for that, because I love how you have that space for them where you’ve got the multiple perspective sunglasses icon, and the detail, and the what, and the who. You can take that resource and craft it to the stories and the literary work that they’re already doing, but you’re taking it up a notch. And so, how do you do that, that extra critical lens for your other multicultural work with your civil rights movement, and your Navajo co-talkers – is there something you could give advice to the teachers as well for those extra students that really need that push?


Naomi: Yeah, and so Depth and Complexity is my absolute favorite. And, I would suggest, if anyone listening has not heard about it or learned about it, to just do a quick Google search of it and just start to like really take in the questions, like there’s usually so many questions down that you can like take baby steps to dive into it, and I would suggest starting with one icon, you introduce it to your students, and over time you will see how it changes your students’ thinking. And, I post it for everybody, because what’s so great about the framework of Depth and Complexity, is that it’s fantastic for those higher students that we can sometimes miss, but it’s great for everybody as well. So, it’s like it’s pushing everybody’s thinking and is including those higher students as well, and it just shifts the thinking. And, the examples that I love to use is the Three Little Pigs, which is just the most basic book I could think of but if you apply Depth and Complexity to it and you’re thinking about the Wolf’s motive and how the characters changed over time, and how would the Wolf from The Little Red Riding Hood think about the Wolf from this story, and you’re thinking about different perspectives, and you’re adding in the ethics of it with “Is it okay for the Wolf to be hunting the Pigs”, and “Is it just predators and prey, or is it bad guy versus good guy?” It just gets them thinking in such different ways about stories, and then you truly see them over time applying that thinking to different stories, and then even bringing it outside of just literature and then like social studies, you can bring it in to social studies, the same thing – “How did this law change over time?” “How did customs and this country change over time?”, “What are the different perspectives?”, like “We think this about the Vietnam War, and what did Vietnamese people think about it? And, that’s something for me, I’m like we never learn about it from that perspective, and you never even thought to consider it because you weren’t pushed to consider it, you know? So, I just love like incorporating that in as many places as possible to like just help kids think critically and help them to start to do it on their own even when I’m not there.


JE: Oh. Love that, Naomi! Love, love, love that!


JE: So, just another quick thing – What else do you want educators, parents, to know about multicultural education for all of our kids?

Naomi: Yes, I would love for them to know, I see a lot of multicultural education accounts and people talking about it, and it’s usually only centered on books. And I would love for them to know that it can be incorporated into everything. Even just your classroom management system, to be multicultural, just taking in consideration who’s in the room, the different practices, different beliefs, different backgrounds, how do they do things in their home and how can you incorporate that into the classroom. LaNesha and I, we wrote a book “Unpack your Impact”, and in part of it we say that our students are expected to just drop their culture at the door and mold to the culture of the classroom, and if she was – and the teacher’s culture, which may or may not match the student’s culture. So, they’re at a disadvantage if the teacher doesn’t take anything about that child into consideration. And, we think about the decor in our classroom, we think about our lessons, like how can you get to know your students and then incorporate stuff from their backgrounds into your lessons and like you said, we have standards we have to teach, sometimes people have to teach curriculum with fidelity, and that’s fine but then like if you have to teach about the Gold Rush, teach about the Gold Rush and then share a different perspective. What else is going on in the world at that exact same time in this country or the state that maybe your student is found. It is bringing different types of learning with it, and just consider like all the underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, because we don’t even have people who kind of push back and say ”Well, my class is all White” – so, it’s like if you have the dominant culture, then you have an even bigger job to make sure you are exposing them to all of these different cultures because you don’t want them to be that child that grows up, has never been exposed to anybody, and then mistreats people or thinks it’s weird, or you know segregate themselves from people based on differences because they never had the chance to explore how beautiful diversity and inclusiveness is. But, just making it more than just books, and really making about it in everything. And even culture, this is something that whenever I like, well we the PD, it’s like when I talk about the culture people think about food, language, race, things like that. And it’s like culture is food but it’s also who cooked it, where did you eat it, what was it seasoned with, are you eating with your fingers, a fork, chopsticks, like it’s every single thing. So, it’s just like even broaden your thoughts and like sense of like what culture is.

JE: And Naomi, it is – it’s more than a recipe. And, I love that; who’s cooking, what utensils are being used, how is it seasoned, how is it prepared? That takes it to a whole another level. And, I really love how you say, it is! It’s more than just books, and in your day-to-day routines, classroom management strategies, how we greet each other. And, I also agree to with the majority culture in the classroom, I always say – don’t assume. That child might be with a multicultural Liberian auntie who may be blonde hair and blue-eyed like myself who had nieces and nephews that are Scandinavian, but you can’t assume that it’s that dominant culture in your class, and I love that how you have to be proactive because when they do encounter people that are from different walks of life, they might have the segregated feeling towards different groups. Oh, wonderful! Love that tip!

JE: Before we go, any other tips and tricks? I love that you can promote different cultures. I love that about, you know, going more in-depth of how things are prepared with food – what else could we do?

Naomi: Yeah, I always say with any child, with any age – start with their culture first. Because, you can get that buy-in. You can help them see ‘this is a part of your culture’, ‘you do have culture’, because some kids are like ‘I don’t have any culture’ – Yes you do, here’s what it is, here’s why it’s really important. Celebrate it, and do it early. Like, we do it the first few weeks of school now instead of like “Oh, and about me, what’s your favorite color?” We’re like “What’s your culture, what’s your background, what’s your language, how did your family dress, what’s your religion, do you go to church, do you not go to church?” And then when you learn about other cultures throughout the year, with Hispanic Heritage Month that’s coming up, and Italian-American, and Indigenous people – they can care about other cultures because they can connect it back to “well, this is important in my culture.’ So, even though that isn’t for me, I can understand why it’s important to them, and this respect can be build, and this curiosity, and this appreciation even of ‘that’s not different’, or ‘that’s not weird, it’s just different’, like ‘Oh, I do it this way, this person in my class does it that way’, and it’s really cool to learn about all these people that by the end of the year they’re just really taking in culture and appreciating it all year long.


JE: All year long. Oh, I love it! Naomi, before we go, where can our people find you?

Naomi: Yes, you can find me on Instagram, @readlikearockstarteaching on Instagram and then @readlikearockstar on TikTok. I’m not on TikTok as much but definitely Instagram is spot to be, and then I also have a website which is We have lots of blogposts about culture and depth and complexity, and lots of fun resources too.


JE: Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much, Naomi, for this talk, and thank you audience for listening to the Cultural Curriculum Chat with Jebeh Edmunds. We’ll see you next time for more fun educational resources that you can use everyday. Thank you!






FEBN: And Why I left the classroom this year.

 F.-E-B-N–What’s that mean, Jeb? I’ll explain in just a minute. It’s an inspiring mantra that has kept me going every time I’ve hit a crossroads in my life and career choices. 

Forward Ever, Backward Never is the mantra my maternal grandfather Anthony used to say to my mother, who inturned told it to me and my sisters, and I must say in my life, I never knew how impactful this phrase meant. Every time something happened along the path with significant decisions, this phrase would echo in my thoughts, and it helped me find clarity on what I wanted to do next. 

A Business is born

I remember walking during the pandemic and chatting with my husband about…lesson plans and things I created, and I wanted to give educators access to multicultural educational resources that were culturally appropriate because there was a lack of those options for educators at the ready. My husband said, “Definitely, go for it; I know you’ll make it a success because of your work ethic and ambition.”

The Sign

When you have those teacher nightmares, ya know-mine, was when my teeth would turn into chiclets and start falling out. Well, in 2021, I didn’t have that dream anymore, and that’s when I knew it was time to move on.

I started working on my business from the fateful walk with my hubby in 2020 to dozens of clients, and keynotes, being named top Multicultural Educational Podcasts of 2021 by Welp Magazine, and the icing on the cake, being named one of our District’s Teach of the Year Nominee…Then I took a deep breath, told the good Lord, “I thank you,” and turned into a full-time CEO of my business. I’m blessed and grateful for what this future holds for me and this business. Let’s go!!

Let’s Get Inclusive at Work

Let’s Get Inclusive at Work

One of my biggest motivations is to get businesses in schools on the right path of understanding each other interculturally.   I was hoping you could learn some practical ideas and some great strategies to have a more multifaceted lens on understanding your co-workers, colleagues, and employees in a more actionable and respectful way. When we talk about having an inclusive workplace environment, many words are out there to make you feel intimidated. But that’s not what the process is.


When I’m working with my business clients, my most significant push for them is to find ways of holding themselves accountable, and find ways of sustaining this protocol when we move forward. Now, I will give you a little taste of what I have proposed to my clients. 


When we go through these practices, we need to keep in mind that we are all human beings. We will stumble. We need to give ourselves some grace. But then we also need to correct our behavior. So we’re not causing more harm to the people at work. It would help if you thought about your own implicit biases in your actions. How did your life experiences shape you into the person that you are right now? How have the attitudes you have perceived about different groups of people affect you in your workplace? So those are some questions that I want you to take with you on doing your self-work and understand that you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Racial bias is a challenging subject. You also have to take into account your actions and be responsible for what you have done to move forward in the future. Now, I was hoping you could keep in mind when you are trying to do the work of being more culturally inclusive because your colleagues of color do not do the work for you. When it comes to being an ethnic month, it comes to be a specific subject that comes around in your staff meetings. It is not your employee or colleague of color that is supposed to take the reins and do the work for your office. Now, many people say, well, we’re trying to collaborate, we’re trying to get our people of color involved and have that voice.


 But there’s a thing called an emotional tax that people of color like myself face every day. It’s much mental work. It’s much mental energy; we have to put on that brave coat of armor that when we are talking about subjects that comes to intercultural relations when dealing with employees when it comes to dealing with customers. We can only bear that burden for so long and for so much. So it is up to businesses. It is up to school districts and administrators to hire out those services. 

 I will walk you through those steps of making those goals actionable and how it can also hold you guys and gals accountable. And when we are talking about having that inclusive workplace environment, that your leadership is there, they are holding themselves accountable as well. The employees feel like they have a space to go to their leadership if things are not working. You also need to make sure that when you are working together, you recruit people who represent all walks of life in your business.  Leaders need to step up to the plate and get our doors open to everyone to come in. Because the more you have a better representation of everyone, the more your clientele will go and be perceptive of “Wow, they are including everybody”, “Wow, I see myself in their ad”. “Wow, I see myself behind the desk working alongside”. So it is up to us to move that needle forward and get going. And if you’re stuck, I’m here to help.   I can’t wait to share more things with you.

Because once we know what is right in our hearts and minds, we can move forward. Schedule a free consultation appointment right here

“It’s up to us to move that needle forward and get going.”

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