The announcement of the new director of equity & justice holds extra significance to the tight-knit community of Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School (SJND), named the most diverse high school in the Bay Area by Niche.com. This will be the first position devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the school’s 139-year history.
“It is easy to point to diversity statistics, but they are meaningless if our school culture does not embrace our diversity with equity and justice for all our students,” says Principal Julianne Guevara. “This new position will further evolve our diversity, equity, and inclusion culture not just in the classroom but throughout our community.”
Starting July 1, 2021 Natalya Wade (née Caraballo) will be acting as a resource, guide, strategic planner, and leader in her role as director of equity and justice. After receiving her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, Natalya spent two years working as a teacher in Madrid, Spain before returning to the Bay Area to pursue a career in immigration law. While she is passionate about legal activism, Natalya found that immigration law was not truly aligned to her soul like education was. After earning her Masters in Education from the University of the Pacific, she began her teaching career as a high school English educator with Aspire Public Schools in Richmond, CA, and then continued on with KIPP Bay Area Public Schools in San Lorenzo, CA where she focused on culturally relevant teaching and trauma-informed education.
“As a teacher, you have a lot of influence. But it's still limited to the students and classes that you're teaching. And so, in this role, what really drew me to it is the impact that I could have on the entire school and community culture. That's something I'm really excited about,” says Natalya. As the equity & justice director, Natalya will be looking at the school holistically, from enrollment practices to curriculum and beyond. “In my opinion, this is what true culturally responsive teaching and equity is all about: the opportunity for ALL students to succeed regardless of their unique background,” Natalya states.
During her time at the University of Chicago, Natalya worked with the American Bar Association to help create a virtual mentorship program that connects high school students of color to legal professionals of color. She has also participated in mentorship programs as an alumna and hopes to implement a similar program at SJND connecting students with alumni. She also has plans to implement regular “culture surveys” where students, staff, families, and faculty are all invited to share their experiences and give meaningful feedback about the extent to which they feel represented and included. Initiatives like this will help contribute to open dialogue and transparency, while also providing data points to track metrics and show areas of growth for the community.
For Natalya, this new position holds special significance because she herself graduated from SJND in 2007. When she found out about the director of equity and inclusion position, Natalya shared that she and her alumni friends became excited that the school “was taking the opportunity to acknowledge that this is a need of the community.” During a year of great upheaval and turmoil, Natalya believes that positions like this “bring a sense of critical hope during a time when you can feel kind of hopeless.”
If you would like to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion here are a few of Natalya’s recommended resources:
“Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho
“Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin Banaji
“Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown
“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
“Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” by Zaretta Hammond
“What if I Say the Wrong Thing” by Verna Myers
“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
“Diversity is Being Invited to the Party: Inclusion is Being Asked to Dance”
By Verna Myers