Assistant Professor Michelle Falter Receives North Carolina English Teachers’ Association’s First-Ever Anti-Racism Teaching Award
Michelle Falter, Ph.D., assistant professor of English education and literacy at NC State College of Education, received the North Carolina English Teachers’ Association’s first-ever anti-racist teaching award.
The Anti-Racism Education Award recognizes exemplary educators who are actively engaged in anti-racism education work in North Carolina and “actively and purposefully ensure that all students have access to an education free from racism, bias and other forms of bigotry”. .”
According to the nomination guidelines, the recipient of the award must be aware of their relationship to race and power structures, select teaching materials that elevate marginalized voices and experiences, represent historical context while teaching literature, and recognize the ongoing effects of systemic racism while addressing these effects in the classroom.
“I was touched and honored to receive this award,” Falter said. “It’s a huge responsibility to be named an anti-racism educator, and especially the first one that the North Carolina Association of English Teachers has recognized.”
This summer, Falter co-authored “Becoming Anti-Racist ELA Teachers: Ways to Move Forward” with College of Education associate professors Chandra Alston, Ph.D., and Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D. The white paper outlines five steps and provides practical resources to help secondary school teachers become anti-racism educators.
Falter is also currently working on a content analysis of intermediate literature and young adult literature to assess whether or not it meets the criteria of Project Lit, a local network of reading groups that aims to generate excitement among students for reading highlighting diversity and high interest. , culturally appropriate books.
For Falter, however, anti-racism education is represented by more than the projects she works on. The philosophy is embedded in the way it constructs its courses and programs, reflects on course readings that include minoritized voices, welcomes diverse thoughts, and regularly examines implicit biases.
“For me, anti-racism work is a 24/7 attitude and mindset. It’s a process of examining my biases and checking myself against others who are different from me in race, creed, sexual orientation, gender, ability or socio-economic status,” she said. “It’s a way of living my life.”
Falter said she started her education career as a high school English teacher in a predominantly white school district in Wisconsin, where she noticed her students had a lot of privilege and unexamined biases at school. towards those who were different from them.
Asking these students to think critically and examine power structures and dynamics in the classroom literature was important to her, and her desire to push for change stemmed from her aversion to unjust circumstances in the world. . It is this hatred of injustice that has continued to drive Falter to work for anti-racist education and equal opportunity and representation for students of all backgrounds.
“I see injustices everywhere in our society and I think that as an educator and as a human who cares about other humans, it is a responsibility to make our world better, fairer and more equitable for all . That’s exactly what anti-racism work does,” she said.
As an assistant professor currently training the next generation of educators, Falter said she hopes her students will learn to continually reflect on their own teaching practices to better support and uplift all students and to embrace what it calls “the oscillation”.
A term she learned in her own doctoral program and now uses in all of her classes, “the wobble” refers to situations in the world that can cause people to feel tense and upset. anxiety, especially when confronted with new truths or realities that have gone before. unnoticed. In times of ‘shake’ people have a choice to learn and grow or to be frustrated, defensive and angry.
“I hope my students will choose the first option. I hope that, as the poet Maya Angelou said, “once they know better, they will do better” for their students,” she said. “I hope they will learn that anti-racism education is just good education. I hope they understand that even when they graduate and get their teaching license, they are not done learning and unlearning.