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Cultural Competency Training Builds Bridges Among Employees, Students & Parents/Community

August 16, 2010

This summer, two teachers from each Plano ISD campus were trained on cultural competency in a "train-the-trainer" format to allow them to help train employees on their campuses. The training, supported by funds from the Plano ISD Education Foundation, is part of a multi-year school board initiative designed to enhance cultural competence among employees and improve relationships with students, parents/community and colleagues.

Teachers in training

Teachers are pictured during a "getting to know you" excersize on their first day of the cultural competency "train-the-trainer" workshop.

"School trustees called for a new set of learning experiences designed to increase our ability to interact with our diverse community," explained Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Otto. "Our professional development and human resources staff have developed an exciting and rigorous training, which is now in its second year, and have trained several teachers who have in turn trained hundreds of colleagues districtwide. The training effort will ensure that, as a district, we build bridges of inclusion, awareness, sensitivity and mutual respect within our organization and the communities that we serve."

Teachers in trainingMark Wellborn kicked off a recent district training on cultural competence.

Mark Wellborn, director of professional learning and advanced academics, and Donna Hartman, academic diversity coordinator, have led the training workshops for the past two years. They have been joined by Phyllis Stoup, elementary social studies coordinator, and members of the human resources division: Jun Melvin, director of compensation and diversity, and Dee Sampson, coordinator for diversity programs. Another lead trainer is Dorothy Shaw, Section 504 coordinator within the student and family services department.

"The goals of cultural competency training are to have stronger working relationships; build rapport with students, parents and peers; anticipate cultural reactions and respond respectfully and to increase student achievement," Mark continued.

Teachers in training

District trainers included Dee Sampson, Phyllis Stoup, Jun Melvin and Dorothy Shaw. Not pictured: Mark Wellborn and Donna Hartman.

Teacher Trainers Share Perspectives

Four teachers whose cultural competency training was successful on their campuses last school year were selected to help facilitate teacher training this summer. Following are a few of their perspectives on the training conducted at their schools.

Kenny Allen, Schell Elementary School:

"Cultural competency training opened the gateway for discussion and cleared communication about topics that are perceived as controversial at my campus and throughout the district.

Teachers in training"This initiative allowed my staff members to look at an issue through different perspectives all within a nurturing environment. The program is structured so well that my colleagues felt comfortable expressing their opinions and in turn felt validated and respected. Several people on my campus told me that they feel more at ease having different values and viewpoints from their teammates and have found a way to respect everyone. Everyone has something of value to bring to the Plano ISD family table. In the end, it's all about the students."

Pictured above are (back) Kenny Allen, Schell Elementary; Chad Kisamore, Wilson Middle School; (front) Ranneh Kayfan, Frankford Middle School; and Stephany Sipes, Jasper High School.

Stephany Sipes, Jasper High School:

"It was such a pleasure to be able to facilitate Plano ISD's cultural competency initiative at Jasper last year. Modules 1 and 2 on 'Religious Expression in the Workplace' were well received by all that participated. I believe that the use of specific, real-world scenarios were the critical components in the modules' success.

Teachers in trainingLearning to train in cultural competency were employees representing each school in the district.

"My staff was able to engage in dialogue regarding the possible micro-aggressions (subtle slights) in a manner that was safe, positive and proactive. The scenarios allowed my staff to be reflective upon their own experiences which made the modules truly meaningful.

"Also, this past April, Module 1 was adapted for students and used with our freshman class. The students were taught about culture, perceptions and the effects of micro-aggressions. The students were asked to brainstorm ways that they micro-aggress each other and for what reasons.

"The results were wonderful as the students were able to have crucial conversations about how to treat each other with respect, regardless of differences."

Teachers in training

Teachers enjoyed getting to know one another at the district training.

Ranneh Kayfan, Frankford Middle School:

"The Cultural Competency campus facilitators Ranneh Kayfan and Anna Vines introduced module one to Frankford Middle School’s staff immediately after the Convocation during in-service last year.

"That particular module provided a framework for crucial conversations for staff members about religious expression. The staff consulted about how they could be more sensitive about their interactions with each other, students, parents and the community with regard to this topic.

"The training helped Frankford staff define terms such as 'culture' and 'cultural competency' in order to have a common vocabulary so that effective, clear conversations could take place. The training also reminded staff that they could refer to Plano ISD Policy Online for clarification if needed.

"The cultural competency module also brought about a new level of awareness with the introduction of the term 'micro-aggression.' Staff members began to review their own actions and word choices to make sure they were not committing micro-aggressions against other staff, students, parents and/or community members.

Teachers in training

Teachers are among the first to be trained on cultural competency. This school year, district administrators will also be trained to share the training with the employees in their service departments.

"They gained understanding that sometimes micro-aggressions may be perceived by the recipient when they were not intended by the speaker, and that the speaker will want to take ownership of how their words and actions are understood by others.

"Frankford’s administrators asked the cultural competency campus facilitators to prepare a presentation for the student body so that they could also engage in similar conversations at an age-appropriate level.  During Frankford’s Safety Day, a 50-minute block was set aside so that all students could review in small classes the cultural competency materials that were prepared for them.

"Perhaps the most expressed sentiment amongst the Frankford staff was that the Cultural Competency training provided a context to engage in conversations about topics that need to be addressed in a respectful, purposeful manner to improve relationships across the campus." 

Future District Training

In addition to teacher training, district administrators from each service department will be trained during the 2010-11 school year to train colleagues on their teams in cultural competency, making the initiative a district-wide effort shared by all employees.



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"The goals of cultural competency training are to have stronger working relationships; build rapport with students, parents and peers; anticipate cultural reactions and respond respectfully and to increase student achievement."

~Mark Wellborn, director of professional learning and advanced academics




Employees like Katrina Collins are ready to share their knowledge of cultural competency with peers and students at their schools.







Dialogue among the teachers at the district training centered on the experiences they've had at their schools among their teammates and students.

Teachers in the training are prepared to bring a new set of learning experiences designed to increase the ability for faculty and staff to better interact with Plano ISD's diverse community.