MCCESC Teaching & Learning

October Focus: Building Classrooms of Tolerance

Tensions Abound

As the election nears, social media is filled with anger over conflicting political beliefs. If adults are participating in these behaviors, how can we expect our students to behave any differently?

The racial discord from late spring, early summer continues, so we must prepare as educators to create classrooms where differences are not only tolerated but celebrated.

Perhaps we need to focus on EMPATHY, CARING, and providing EQUITABLE experiences in our classrooms.

Offer Empathy

Teaching Tolerance

A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance was founded in 1991 to prevent the growth of hate. Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Our program emphasizes social justice and anti-bias.

Some of their resources are included below:

Lessons and Learning Plans

Student Texts and Tasks

Teaching Strategies

Film Kits and Printable Posters

Self-Guided Learning for Teachers


Frameworks, including the Social Justice Standards

and a personal favorite, the #USvsHate Challenge

Restorative Justice in Education

The term, restorative justice, means that when harm is caused (by physical or verbal actions), the victims, offenders and community members collaboratively meet to repair the relationships.

Our math curriculum specialist, Melissa Scoville, has been trained in Restorative Justice (RJ), and has created an action plan to get RJ into districts. Ideally, every district would have a CULTURE OF CARE, which would allow for relationships to be built (and maintained) between students and staff.

If you would like to learn more, or are interested in bringing Restorative Justice into your school, please email Melissa:

Equality vs. Equity

The attached graphic provides a great visual in the difference between these terms., a project started because of the belief that every child is entitled to lifelong learning success, provides the following brief explanation:

"In short, equality is: generic, group-focused, and equal

And equity is: adaptable, individual-focused, and fair"

Lessons Learned

Each month, we are going to share experiences from teachers. More specifically, what they learned during these months of uncertainty.

If you are interested in sharing your lesson learned, register here.

Stephanie Chatwood, Intervention Specialist at Triad Middle School shared:

During our shutdown and time at home, I learned many new things about my students and about myself. I realized how resilient our students really are! It was a very time difficult for everyone and our kids showed up, did their work and tried their hardest! At times, the kids were more motivated than I was as a teacher to learn and to work!

I learned that I do know how to use technology! I learned how to use new formats on how to progress monitor, which I have carried over into my classroom this school year! I learned how to ¨Zoom¨ and hold IEP meetings virtually. It was a whole new learning experience for all of us!

We all worked together to make things work and I think we did a great job!

Stephanie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us. We are proud to have you as a teacher within one of our partner districts, and we thank you for the hard work and effort you put forth daily to help our students. Have a great school year!

"All in" At Urbana Junior High School

Emilee Gieseke, 7th Grade Math Teacher shared:

Changing school districts in 2020 sounds like a nightmare, but I could not have picked a better time to make the switch. Yes, education seems to be in chaos right now with COVID mandates, but it is also a great time to be new. I did not know what Urbana Junior High was like prior to COVID, so I came in as a blank slate. Urbana gave all students the option to choose to come to school 5 days a week or learn remotely 5 days a week. In the “outside world” I have heard talk of this year being another wash, but I can assure you that the students in my room are not just warm bodies in a room. The students WANT to be at school. Our students are in cohorts which means they stay with the same group of students in the same room throughout the day while the teachers rotate around on carts to teach from. However, the students understand why we are taking these measures. Urbana’s goal is to stay open. So for purposes of contact tracing, we are keeping the students in small groups. These small class sizes have been an absolute dream. My largest class has 17 students. I am getting to know the students’ needs and strengths faster this year, and I am able to truly help each student since I do not have so many in a room.

Teachers are working tirelessly to provide engaging and meaningful lessons. Because students can’t share materials, this might mean that we need to come up with 70 decks of cards so that students can practice calculating with integers in a fun way. It takes creativity to have activities for the students to do and stay within compliance with state mandates, but as always, teachers are going to go above and beyond for their kids. Do I miss students partnering up and sharing materials? Yes. Is wearing a mask while teaching a challenge? Yes. However, we rise to the challenge and overcome it. We always do. We are teachers.

Emilee, not only do we thank you for sharing your experience with us, but we thank you for continuing to doing what is best for the students in one of our partner districts. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. We wish you the best of luck in your position and hope that your school year is great!

Leveling the Playing Field & Removing Barriers for ALL Learners

Universal Design for Learning

If you're struggling with how to plan for each learner in your classroom, you may want to learn more about UDL, or Universal Design for Learning.

Our ELA curriculum specialist and PD coordinator, James Cutlip, has been trained in UDL, and he is excited to offer his knowledge.

If you would like to learn more, or are interested in bringing UDL into your school, please email James:

UDL At A Glance

Creating Blended Learning Environments

According to Penn Foster (2017), a benefit to blended learning "is that everyone uses the same platform. Even though you have students at many aptitude levels, this similarity boosts equity in the classroom. Diverse student demographics get the same opportunities as others starting out in less disadvantaged positions. English language learners are no longer isolated from the rest of their peers. Blended learning puts every person on a computer, so it's a common sight rather than the mark of an "outsider."

Our science curriculum specialist, Tracy Merica, has been trained and trained many others in Blended Learning Models, such as learning plans, playlists, and learning menus.

If you would like to learn more, or are interested in how to use blended learning within your school, please email Tracy:


While we are not self-care experts, we can help you with instruction. Please reach out to us if you find yourself needing instructional or curricular help during these complicated times. We know that you have been inundated with resources, so we have worked to organize those for you. We are here to help.


We have linked upcoming webinars and online workshops that are being offered to educators at no cost.

Madison-Champaign ESC

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Department of Teaching & Learning

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