• Nineteenth Annual Diversity Leadership Award Winners, January 23, 2020

    These awards are coordinated annually by the Plano ISD Diversity Board Advisory Committee to recognize students, staff and community members who have shown leadership and commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within this community. The 2020 winners are:

    • Group Diversity Leadership Award: Hedgcoxe Elementary Staff and PTA
    • Individual Diversity Leadership Award: Caitlin Bailey-Garafola, Social Studies Teacher, Jasper High School
  • Group Diversity Leadership Award Winner: Hedgcoxe Elementary Staff and PTA

    Celebrating their diverse community has always been important to the Hedgcoxe Elementary staff and PTA, but in last few years, they are partnering to grow this celebration from a single event to a year-long commitment to highlighting what makes us all unique. They base their strategy on the three C’s: collaboration, creativity and celebration.

    Hedgecoxe PTA and Principal

    Hedgecoxe Elementary PTA President Alicia Wanek and Hedgcoxe Principal Kristi Graham.

  • Nomination: Hedgcoxe Elementary Staff and PTA


    The population of students at Hedgcoxe Elementary has evolved over the years to include a much more diverse representation of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and student abilities. There has always been an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance promoted in the school, but over the years, there have been more concerted efforts to work to learn about and celebrate our differences. Most recently, there has been a focused collaborative partnership established between the school and the parents through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to provide multiple opportunities to ensure that the students (and families) are learning that while we may look different, we are all Hedgcoxe Hounds. We have recognized this can't be done with one program, or one event, or one lesson, but a year-long commitment to the goal of embracing what makes us unique.

    Indicate three qualities or attributes of the individual or group that add to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    Collaborative - Key to the success of students, academically as well as personally, is a collaboration between teachers and parents. When what the students are learning at school is validated at home, the concepts are much more likely to become deep-rooted. By embracing diversity in all that the teachers and staff do in their classrooms every day and for PTA to do the same as we plan every program and activity, knowing we will have the support of each other along the way, we can show our students that celebrating our differences is integral to being part of our community, at school, at home, and out in the world.

    Creative - We continue to search for new ways to promote diversity and educate our Hedgcoxe community on the value of seeing how we are stronger because we are so diverse. New programs and assemblies, rethinking how our activities can be more inclusive, and adding new elements to long-held traditions are vital to ensuring we don't become stagnant.

    Celebratory – With each of the specific activities below, the goal is not to educate kids on the value of embracing diversity through written lessons but to help them to celebrate what made it special to see how we are all unique while having fun.

    Activities or programs in which the individual or group has demonstrated leadership by initiating, implementing, or sponsoring programs which improved relationships among various cultures within the district and/or community.

    • Fine arts day
    • Black History Month program
    • Site based improvement committee
    • Multicultural/family art night
    • One school, one book
    • Experience the awareness
    • Peas in a pod
    • Art & music
    • Spirit night

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Dear Nomination Committee:

    Over the years, I have had the privilege and honor to work with the Hedgcoxe PTA. Members are comprised of welcoming dedicated individuals who are educators, accountants, office managers and stay at home moms. They are a diverse group of parents, ethnically, and culturally driven by an extraordinary goal. Their dedication, eagerness to work together, and infinite desire to serve selflessly, has made Hedgcoxe Elementary become a beacon of diversity and inclusiveness. Where all families are always welcome and embraced.

    The PTA sponsored Multicultural art night is an event where families participate in celebrating multiculturalism. Families are encouraged to display their ethnic background by setting up a tri-board presenting their country of origin and sample a traditional dish. Students are actively engaged in a plethora of cultural art forms such as, origami, henna, haiku, and coloring maps of different regions, as well as, learning the origins of their peers, and naturally their respective culture.

    This event has grown over the years and has become the ambassador of cultural diversity. The PTA's commitment and genuine dedication in building relationships with the community at large has undeniably attracted more families every year. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I respectively recommend Hedgcoxe PTA for the distinguished diversity in leadership award.

    Nina Tabanian
    ESL Specialist
    Hedgcoxe Elementary

    Dear Award Committee:

    It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of recommendation for Hedgcoxe Elementary School to receive the Diversity Awareness Award. As a resident of Plano and a product of Plano Independent School District. I am extremely pleased at the activities that my two sons and I have had the opportunity to participate in. As the city of Plano continues to become more diverse it is important to ensure that our children understand and appreciate the benefits of diversity.

    Hedgcoxe Elementary held Experience the Awareness Day last year and has consistently had this event for many years. Experience the Awareness Day allowed our students to understand some of the challenges that many of their peers overcome daily due to their physical impairment, such as Asthma or hearing loss or a learning disability such as dyslexia. As a parent, I know that our school thinks this event is important because the event occurs in place of one of their classes: Physical Education. Last year, I had a parent tell me that their child came home from Experience the Awareness Day stating that now they understood how hard it was for the grandparent, whom had Muscular Dystrophy, to get dressed as a result of one of the activities. My kids have both come home speaking about how they didn't know how hard it was for some of their friends to get through the school day with their disability until completing the Experience the Awareness Day stations.

    Additionally. Hedgcoxe Elementary celebrated diversity through having a Black History program last year. The Black History- Program took place towards the end of the day and was phenomenal. Our school's program celebrated the rich history of black people, while sharing the cultural aspects that came from Africa, such as the art of storytelling. My kids who are African American, loved seeing former Hedgcoxe students that looked like them come back and talk to the entire school about what it took for them to become a doctor and the other a teacher and coach. We live in a day in age where all of our children need to see people that look like them accomplishing goals. Hedgcoxe not only helped its African American students, but also all students see that doctors, teacher and coaches come in all shapes and colors. It helped students know and believe that they, too, can be something great in life.

    All in all, Hedgcoxe Elementary has done a great job teaching their students how to appreciate and respect people that may look, act or think differently from them. through the aforementioned activities. I also appreciate the teachers who provided time for the students to reflect on these activities. lt is through reflection that our learning is enhanced. Please acknowledge Hedgcoxe Elementary for the tireless efforts in teaching students how to embrace diversity by awarding them the PISD Diversity Awareness Award.

    Humbly Submitted,
    Shanette Eaden
    Hedgcoxe Elementary and Hendrick Middle School parent

  • Individual Diversity Leadership Award Winner: Caitlin Bailey-Garafola, Jasper High School

    Caitlin Bailey-Garafola, tenth grade Humanities and AP European History teacher at Jasper High School, was nominated for this award due to her dedication to highlighting and celebrating diversity on her campus. She spearheaded the creation of a diversity committee at Jasper. Caitlin’s goal is that all of Jasper High School students will be able to find role models. 

    Caitlin Bailey-Garafola

    Caitlin Bailey-Garafola, Jasper High School, Tenth Grade Humanities and AP European History Teacher.

  • Nomination: Caitlin Bailey-Garafola


    In order to bring attention to people who may not show up in everyday curriculum and to bring some attention to the diversity in our school and in the world, Caitlin formed Jasper High School's Diversity Committee that has representation from every department on campus. Their goal is to educate students on the achievements of diverse people/groups (based on the US recognized months like Black history month). This year, they are maintaining a bulletin board, but next year, the goal would be to have a different person highlighted by every classroom. Each month Caitlin leads the committee she formed in researching notable figures in within the designated group. In November, Caitlin and the group researched and approved over 75 individuals. She summarizes notable attributes and finds connections between the individual and school curriculum. Additionally, Caitlin works to connect individuals to every content area of the school including the four cores, Art, Dance, Choir, Band, Orchestra, Theater, JROTC, Athletics, medical science, career & technical education and LOTE.

    Indicate three qualities or attributes of the individual that adds to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    Caitlin and her committee have worked to show connections of individuals from diverse groups to the world and also to specific contents within school. The results of her work, posters are approachable conversation starters that lead to deeper, more meaningful appreciation for diversity. The group works hard to recognize the need for inclusivity, the committee itself is inclusive in its membership makeup both in terms of the departments represented and the identities of the individuals.

    Activities or programs in which the individual or group has demonstrated leadership by initiating, implementing, or sponsoring programs which improved relationships among various cultures within the district and/or community.

    Catlin works within her classroom among her peer teachers throughout the district to promote diversity. Beyond forming Jasper’s diversity committee, Caitlin works within her teaching teams to ensure diversity is a component of the curriculum of both AP European History and Humanities. She also is a vocal advocate to promote diversity in the work place.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    To whom it may concern:

    As educators, we are tasked with the daunting responsibility of teaching the whole child. At Jasper High School, a committee comprised of teachers has taken on the challenge of teaching a part of the child that is often left neglected. Because our district is truly a global one in terms of students' countless nationalities, ethnicities and religious backgrounds, teacher Caitlin Bailey-Garafola formed the Diversity Committee at Jasper High School for the express purpose of providing our campus with curriculum-based information about American public figures from varying groups and denominations. So that every student at Jasper can feel represented and honored as diverse members of our campus.

    Mrs. Garafola researches different individuals whose contributions or importance align with each of the content areas, and creates curriculum as well as posters that highlight those individuals based on the month. In September, Mrs. Garafola displayed around 20 posters that highlighted Latinx-American figures. Each poster included photos of the individual as well as notable accomplishments and accolades- including a poster devoted to former Jasper principal Ed Escobedo himself.

    This committee has also honored notable figures from the Native American/indigenous people's community, South Asian-Americans and many more will come as the year continues. Because of this work, students at Jasper are more well-rounded in their knowledge of the diverse nature of this great nation, and are also learning more about perspectives and backgrounds that differ from their own. In doing this, Jasper's students are truly becoming better equipped to be successful in a challenging and diverse world.

    The Diversity Committee at Jasper High school has truly impacted our campus for the better, as its mission to educate staff and students alike on different diverse groups has also succeeded in honoring all of our beautifully different backgrounds. They are truly deserving of this honor because they are fulfilling Dr. King's own mission through their work.

    Khadeeja Miandara, Secondary Teacher at Jasper High School

    To the Plano ISD Diversity Leadership Award Selection Committee:

    It is a true honor to write this letter of recommendation for my colleague Caitlin Bailey-Garafola. Over the past eleven academic years it has been a joy watching Caitlin grow and flourish as both an educator and as a student advocate. Even during her first years as a teacher, I vividly remember Caitlin challenging the status quo and actively working to design and create valuable and engaging curriculum that would fully reach all of her students.

    Caitlin currently co-teaches humanities, the two-year gifted program for freshmen and sophomore students, as well as leads the AP European History team. It would be easy for her to have blinders for only the curriculum, but Caitlin's first priority is the atmosphere she creates in the classroom and insuring that her students' social and emotional health is being taken care of. In her AP european history classes she requires her students to pause and reflect every Friday. She provides each student with a gratitude journal and has created a safe place for them to express their feelings in a private, confidential and personal way. She uses these journals as a way to promote the emotional health of her students and also to make sure her students know she is there for them.

    The impact Caitlin has, though, is far bigger than just her classroom. As a history teacher, Caitlin recognized that much of the content of her courses focused on major actors in history, but that there was a dearth of information about ways that diverse people groups contribute to contemporary society. She decided to change that. She began working with our administration to find an appropriate way to bring attention to people who may not show up in everyday curriculum. Her goal was to find an avenue to educate our students on the achievements of diverse people, and do it in an honorable and fair way. Our school administration subsequently permitted her to create the Diversity Committee, a group of teachers who regularly meet to identify key figures for each month, i.e. Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, etc. The list is curated by Caitlin, and each individual that is listed has been tied to both a content area and a TEK for that area. Not only that, but every single subject area taught at Jasper has someone represented on the list, even down to dance, JROTC, and speech and debate. From each month's list, Caitlin choses about a dozen or so individuals to specifically highlight and for whom to create a poster. These posters, painstakingly crafted by Caitlin, are then showcased on the vast public space allocated to the Diversity Committee.

    Overall, it has been a tremendously powerful experience for me to watch students stand and peruse the posters. Many of my students have even commented that it was the first time they saw someone who looked like them showcased in their school. Caitlin has helped create a way for our students and our community to feel seen and valued. So many teachers create classrooms that are warm and welcoming but Caitlin was not content with simply leaving that feeling in only her classroom but desired to include the entire school in that acceptance. It is for this initiative in particular, but also for her general sense of valuing and caring for all students, that I can unconditionally recommend Caitlin for this award.

    Clarissa Moreno
    AVID Coordinator
    AP Human Geography
    Speech and Debate