We sat down with Ensworth’s Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion team members to learn more about the expansion of the Department to include two new faculty.
When Ensworth went through the accreditation process in 2019, one of the recommendations of the visiting committee was for Ensworth to establish a more focused effort on diversity and inclusion. In the spring of 2020, the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion was created with David Whitfield at the helm as its Director
. As David says, “for Ensworth to reach its fullest potential, we have to develop the best practices and systems in relation to diversity and inclusion.”
David Whitfield has been working at Ensworth School for more than fifteen years as an educator, mentor, and teacher. During his tenure, working in the field of diversity and inclusion was instinctual. Although Mr. Whitfield was initially hesitant to have an official title, he knew that to grow the work, formalization was key. All through the 2020-2021 school year, a group of faculty and staff members met as a part of the Inclusion Committee to have conversations on race, as well as to discuss the nature of things happening in the world and their effects on the Ensworth community. With dialogue, voices were heard and plans were made, but the mobilization of such efforts and desires was complicated. Considering COVID restrictions, communication challenges due to virtual connections, two campuses, and three divisions of the school, supporting the families, faculty, and community members in this way proved to be too much for one person.
At the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, it was clear that to make a true impact, more members of the faculty were needed. The expansion of the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion grew to include Hope Moeller as the Lower School representative and Maurice Hopkins as the Middle School representative, with David acting as the rep for the High School. All three members shared how honored and excited they are to work together and mentioned their desire to create spaces where every child, family, faculty, and staff member feels safe and seen.
Hope Moeller, Grade 2 Teacher-LS: Hope brings a perspective geared toward our youngest. She says, “Our elementary classrooms naturally discuss and learn about who we are and how we treat each other in a community, and I can see that student demand is creating extensions to those conversations throughout the MS and HS.” She also shares, “There is a softness to what we are right now. [We are not trying] to put anything on people. Instead, we are trying to be open to what is needed. ” She shares that she is most excited to get to know more of the Lower School community and learn more about their Ensworth experience. “What do families in our community feel is needed and how can we respond to that?” she mentions.
Maurice Hopkins, History Teacher; Service Learning Coordinator; Coach-MS: In his different roles, Maurice works primarily with Middle School students. He says, “I want to directly engage the community where I am from with the community where I am.” He takes pride in merging the past with the present, demonstrating his mad history skills, and enticing students to engage with the knowledge they are obtaining. He is excited to teach students to appreciate global perspectives and to engage them through storytelling and a culturally enriching curriculum. He adds, “I am excited to know I am doing work that needs to be done.” Maurice is also eager to bring professional development opportunities to the entire K-12 staff that are geared towards this work and being a resource to the school community as a whole.
David Whitfield, Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion; English, History and Seminar Teacher-HS: David holds the scope and sequence for such initiatives and conveys, “This work ties so closely with the Mission of Ensworth.” By offering academics and programs that encourage knowledge and awareness, the Ensworth community is hopefully drawn toward curiosity, which will encourage them to use their talents in support of the greatest good. David’s biggest desire is to build unity. “I want to build bridges, foster awareness, and develop the infrastructure that enables students and parents to grow in their avenues of understanding,” he asserts. Ensworth builds people of integrity by continuing to offer students a safe space to process things happening in the world around them, as well as making programmatic shifts that support their growth in engaging with their community as a whole. With knowledge and encouragement comes action and power.
The overarching goal to empower movement and action by having a representative from each of the three divisions on the two campuses is a strong move toward the goals of the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion, as well as Ensworth School as a whole. The re-entry to a world with in-person school, events, and opportunities to gather has been overwhelming for some. This, in part, is why this office is keeping entry into planned events for the 2021-2022 school year minimal. This year has smaller initiatives such as Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, an event to welcome families of color, and an all-community Trunk-or-Treat. “We have to see the long game. If we do not want it to be performative, we have to put away our agenda and say, ‘What is it that the whole community needs?’” says Hope.
Oftentimes, in work such as this surrounding diversity, inclusion, and equity, apprehension comes and there is fear of offending someone. It is also common for there to be miscommunication or misunderstanding of intentions. But as Hope shares, “stepping into the conversation and being proactive about learning what [we] don’t know is worth that risk.”