EquityMatters! April 2021

We often hear students say that we don’t talk about events in school and as a result, they can sometimes feel that no one sees them or even worse no one cares about their feelings. As leaders, fostering an environment where students, staff, and families feel visible is critical in today’s world."

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack R. Smith & Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Monifa B. McKnight, April 14, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

So much has happened in the month since our last newsletter. It makes many of us want to turn off the news to protect our sanity, or to feel skeptical that we can personally do anything to address systemic racism. We share those feelings.

The truth is that Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is not immune to systemic racism. As you read and listen to the experiences of our colleagues and students below, there is work ahead of us to create a culture in which all students, families, and staff feel seen, safe, and included.

What can we do?

Start by listening to the stories below. In this issue:

With appreciation,

Troy, Daryl, Deanna, Edvin, Ericka, Joan, Maniya, Marya, and John

The Counter Story

The Counter Story this month features a teachers and students who share their perspective of what it means to be Arab American.

The Counter Story is a monthly column that features the voices of MCPS students, families, and staff who are often marginalized in the media, curriculum, and our classrooms. Counterstories help us to interrupt our explicit and implicit biases, and to inspire us to action.

Mrs. Amani M. Elkassabany, staff development teacher, Thomas S. Wootton High School

Salma Tagnaoti is a Grade 12 student at Thomas S. Wootton High School.

What Arab American Heritage Month Means to Me

Ms. Hala A. Fayyad, special education teacher, Cresthaven Elementary School

"I came to the United States from my beautiful country Lebanon to join my husband in 1981, together we created a family with two precious children...What does Arab American Heritage Month mean to me, I am one of 3.5 million Arab Americans that reside in the USA, and one of approximately 10,950 in the Washington, D.C. vicinity. The Arabs' contributions to their communities are countless."

What Learning to Speak Arabic in America Taught Me About Being Arab American

by Mrs. Amani M. Elkassabany, staff development teacher, Thomas S. Wootton High School

In this powerful essay, Staff Development Teacher, Amani M. Elkassabany, writes "While we were learning English at India Kaw Valley Elementary School in Lawrence, Kansas, my parents were making sure we still spoke Arabic at home. Along with lessons in Arabic pronunciation and vocabulary, learning to speak Arabic in America also taught me some important lessons about being Arab American."

6 Influential Arab Americans in Marketing and Media -- https://marcomweekly.com

Dr. Joan's Gems

April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM) and it is a time to recognize the contributions, achievements, history, and culture of the diverse population of Arab Americans. Throughout the country, cultural institutions, school districts, state legislatures, municipalities, and Arab Americans and others will engage in events that celebrate the rich heritage, culture, and numerous contributions to our society made by Arab Americans.

Arab Americans: History, Culture, and Contributions

“The Arab American community is vibrant and diverse and continues to impact American society...This book offers a glimpse into the nationwide community while simultaneously combatting the misinformation and stereotypes about Arabs and Arab Americans that exist in media and political rhetoric.”

Lesson Plans From the Arab American National Museum

The Arab American National Museum "offers a variety of lesson plans for educators to utilize, that educate classrooms about Arab Americans without excluding the story and history of other communities."

Books With Arab American Themes and Characters

MCPS Unsung Sheroes and Heroes

"It's easy to miss the invisible engines that keep the wheels turning in the organizations where we work or the communities that we live in."

Lim Lay Hsuan and Lustin OOI T.Y., 5 Common Characteristics Of Unsung Heroes

We know that our unsung sheroes and heroes often work silently but steadily among us all. It takes many dedicated and resourceful people to support and serve our students, their families and community, and our staff in the school system. What would it be like without these unsung sheroes and heroes in our school district? Please remember to say, "Thank you!" whenever you have the opportunity to let our colleagues know we see them and respect their invaluable contributions to the system.

Ms. Jenny (Jackie) F. Amaya Diaz, building services manager, Richard Montgomery High School

Mr. Paul K. Aniugo, supply worker, Division of Food and Nutrition Services

Ms. Christine M. Blanton, cafeteria manager, Montgomery Blair High School

Religious & Cultural Commemorations

One way to connect with students, staff, and families is to have awareness of the holidays and commemorations they observe. The EIU Calendar provides you with dates and resources for many of these observances. See below for holidays coming up this month.

Let us know how you commemorate these holidays and please send resources for holidays and celebrations that are missing from the calendar.


April 12-May 12

Information and resources about Ramadan

by Manal Agabein, Resource Teacher for Special Education at White Oak Middle School and Farhana Shah, ESOL Content Specialist at White Oak Middle.

White Oak Middle School Students Talk About Ramadan

Assuring Muslim Students COVID-19 Won’t Dim the Ramadan Lights

Events and Announcements

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Please consider attending one of the following sessions.

MORE Equity Resources

Past Editions of EquityMatters!

EIU Lending Library

The Equity Initatives Unit is excited to announce its new Professional Development Collection. This is a lending library for you to borrow books to support your equity journey. Just click on the link below and then hit borrow.

Online Equity Modules

Below are modules that provide the skills and practice needed to address complex equity problems. The modules are designed to be self-paced or done as a team. Participants can recieve PDO credit.

  • How to Talk About Race -- PDO #89781 EIU
  • Planning Effective and Culturally Responsive Meeting -- PDO #89783
  • How to Be an Antiracist -- PDO #89782

Equity Resources Padlet

Haven't found what you're looking for? Check out our Equity Resources Padlet. It's a live site that continues to be updated.

Your Feedback

Please take two minutes to give us your feedback on this newsletter and to let us know what kinds of resources you would like to see.

Created By
John Landesman


Cover Photo (https://www.arabamericannews.com/2020/05/02/four-u-s-reps-including-tlaib-and-dingell-introduce-arab-american-heritage-month-resolution/); The Counter Story (https://scenearabia.com/Culture/Influential-Arab-Americans-Digital-Age-Social-Media-Perceptions); Ramadan Mubarak (https://uaenationalday.info/happy-ramadan-mubarak-images/);