Women’s History Month

March is #WomensHistoryMonth — a time to highlight and encourage the study of women and their impact on history and society. We celebrate the women in and out of the classroom who are transforming the field of education to ensure every child has access to an excellent and equitable education. #teachers #teachforamerica

What Women of Color Bring to K-12 Classrooms

“It’s not just I who needed a teacher of color—my white classmates also needed one. I think it would have had a big effect on the way that I saw myself, and the way that other kids saw me too.” This is the reflection English teacher Christina Torres (Los Angeles ’09) had when she thought about growing up without a teacher of color.

Reflecting on Christina’s experience, we took a deeper dive into what happens when women of color occupy K-12 classrooms. Here, meet five Teach For America educators, Yanepsi Alvarado (Massachusetts ‘17), Calethia Murray-Mckinney (Jacksonville ‘20), Jacquinta Nelson (Kansas City ‘23), Lydia A. Yellow Hawk, M.A. (South Dakota ‘19), Pi’ikea Kalakau-Baarde (Hawai’i ’15), who foster belonging, develop innovative teaching strategies and enhance cultural competency, in large part by tapping into their BIPOC identities.

One Day Content:

Mari Copeny

Mari is a 16 year old from Flint, Michigan known globally as Little Miss Flint. She first entered the public spotlight when her letter to President Obama about the water crisis prompted him to visit the city and survey the water crisis for himself, ultimately leading to him approving $100 million dollars in relief for the city of Flint. Her young age has not prevented her from making a significant impact on the dialogue around environmental racism and confronted the entire country with the reality faced by victims of state negligence. In 2017 Mari continued her dedication to social justice by becoming a national youth ambassador to the Women’s March on Washington and the National Climate March. Mari has used her platform to not only bring awareness to the water crisis in her community but to also give back, raising over $700,000 for her Flint Kids projects including giving out over 19,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, a yearly Christmas event with thousands of toys, hundreds of Easter baskets, movie screenings, and lots of other events centered around the kids in her community. She  also raised over $250k and gave away over a million bottles of bottled water. But she takes the most pride in pivoting away from single-use bottled water to partnering with a company (Hydroviv) to produce her very own water filter that is shipped all over the country to those that are facing toxic drinking water, to date she has raised over $700k to produce and distribute her filters.

Source: Mari Copeny

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Mink was the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress. In addition to writing bills like Title IX, the Early Childhood Education Act, and the Women’s Educational Equity Act, Patsy was the first Asian-American to run for U.S. President. After moving to Hawaii, Patsy registered for the bar exam to be able to practice law in the territory. When she was unable to find a job because of her interracial marriage, she decided to start her own practice instead and founded the Oahu Young Democrats in 1954, making her the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in her home state of Hawaii. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Patsy immediately began campaigning to be elected as a congresswoman. Although her first attempt was unsuccessful, she returned to politics in 1962 when she won a seat in the Hawaii State Senate and she continued to campaign for a seat in the U.S. Congress even after the Democratic party decided to support another candidate. In 1964, a second position was created in the U.S. House of Representatives. With the help of her husband and several unpaid volunteers, Mink won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, making her the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress. As a congresswoman, Mink fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, bilingual education, and became a supporter of Title IX. While she worked in Washington, D.C., she also traveled back to Hawaii every other week to make sure she was connected to the issues and concerns of the Hawaiian people. She successfully served on many committees while in congress including; the Committee on Education and Labor, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and the Budget Committee. Through these committees, she was able to voice the concerns of groups that were discriminated against. In 1974, she was able to pass the Women’s Educational Equity Act to promote gender equality in schools. Patsy Takemoto Mink is one of five trailblazers who were circulated on quarters by the U.S. Mint in 2024 as part of the third year of the American Women Quarters Program

Source: National Women’s History Museum

Ruby Bridges

At six years old, Ruby Bridges advanced the cause of civil rights in November 1960 when she became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South. When Ruby was two years old, her parents moved their family from Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana in search of better work opportunities. Though the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas ended racial segregation in public schools, southern states continued to resist integration, and in 1959, Ruby attended a segregated New Orleans kindergarten. A year later, however, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate. The school district created entrance exams for African American students to see whether they could compete academically at the all-white school. Ruby and five other students passed the exam. Her parents were torn about whether to let her attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School, a few blocks from their home. Her father resisted, fearing for his daughter’s safety; her mother, however, wanted Ruby to have the educational opportunities that her parents had been denied. Meanwhile, the school district dragged its feet, delaying her admittance until November 14. Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to the school every day that year. She walked past crowds screaming vicious slurs at her. Barbara Henry, a white Boston native, was the only teacher willing to accept Ruby, and all year, she was a class of one. Ruby ate lunch alone and sometimes played with her teacher at recess, but she never missed a day of school that year. While some families supported her bravery—and some northerners sent money to aid her family—others protested throughout the city. The Bridges family suffered for their courage: Abon lost his job, and grocery stores refused to sell to Lucille. Her share-cropping grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for a quarter-century. Ruby graduated from a desegregated high school, became a travel agent, married and had four sons. Ruby later wrote about her early experiences in two books and received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award. As a lifelong activist for racial equality, Ruby established The Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Source: National Women’s History Museum

Lauren Good Day “Good Day Woman”

Lauren Good Day “Good Day Woman” is an Multi- award winning Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree artist and sought after fashion designer. She is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation) of the Ft. Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and also a registered Treaty Indian with the Sweet Grass Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has shown her artwork at the world’s most prestigious Native American juried art shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, Heard Guild Museum Market in Arizona, and Autry American Indian Arts Marketplace Los Angeles (among others). Lauren’s artwork has been part of numerous solo and group exhibitions at galleries and museums across the Country. Lauren has a passion for promoting and revitalizing the arts of her people while developing new methods and incorporating new trendsetting ideas in both the art and design communities. She has been creating Native American art since she was six, starting with beadwork and Tribal regalia, she then expanding into mediums such as quillwork, ledger drawings, rawhide parfleche, and fashion design. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Studies from the Institute of American Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. Lauren lives on the rolling hills of North Dakota, her traditional homelands. She continues to be steeped within the cultural life ways of her people and actively helps with language and culture revitalization efforts, participates in cultural celebrations, powwows and her tribal ceremonial doings. Her role as a mother and woman of her tribe guide her to continue on the arts of her people for the generations to come.

Source: Lauren Good Day

Miriam Calderón

As the Chief Policy Officer, Miriam Calderón leads the development and implementation of ZERO TO THREE’s policy agenda, priorities, and strategies; oversees the Policy Center, which includes federal and state policy and advocacy; and serves as the principal spokesperson for the organization on public policy matters. Miriam joined ZERO TO THREE after serving as a Presidential appointee in the Biden Administration in the role of deputy assistant secretary for early learning at the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as a political appointee in the Obama Administration, where she advised the White House on early learning policy at the Domestic Policy Council and at the Department of Health and Human Services. She was appointed by Governor Kate Brown in 2017 to serve as the early learning system director for the state of Oregon, where she led an agency responsible for administration of child care, preschool, and home visiting programs and support for the early childhood workforce. In this role, she oversaw implementation of the largest expansion of early childhood investments for young children and families in the state’s history. Previously, Miriam served as director of early childhood education at District of Columbia Public Schools, where she oversaw Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs, including helping to implement universal pre-kindergarten. She also served as associate director of education policy at the UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza), a Hispanic civil rights organization, where she focused on early education policy for Latinx, immigrant, and dual language learner children.

Source: Zero to Three

Justice Mary I. Yu

Mary Yu was appointed to the Washington Supreme Court in May of 2014, and subsequently elected in 2014 and 2016. Mary joined the Supreme Court after more than 14 years as a trial court judge in King County Superior Court where she presided over a wide variety of criminal, civil, and juvenile cases, and presided over hundreds of adoptions and other family law matters. She has an extensive record of service both on and off the bench, mentoring young attorneys, law clerks, and students and co-chairing the Court’s Minority and Justice Commission. She was personally devoted to the Seattle Girls’ School Mock Trials, serving as their judge for 17 years. Mary was raised in Bridgeport, a South Side neighborhood in Chicago, by immigrant parents; her mother came from Mexico and her father from China. She is the first in her family to graduate from college, receiving her B.A. from Dominican University, her M.A. in Religious Studies from Mundelein College of Loyola University in Chicago, and her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School. Mary is the first Asian, the first Latina, and the first member of the LGBTQ community to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court.

Source: Justice Mary Yu

By Career Center Team
Career Center Team