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Mason alumna raises funds and gathers books for diversity awareness

July 24, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

Faith Thompson

In June, first-grade teacher Faith Thompson, a 2019 graduate of George Mason University’s Transformative Teaching Program, put out a call on her Facebook page for help buying books that promote diversity, inclusion, tolerance and anti-racism. Thompson hoped she would get enough money to provide each teacher in her Manassas, Virginia, elementary school with one book to help facilitate conversations around these issues.

“I wanted to encourage teachers to have intentional and explicit conversations with their students about tolerance, acceptance and bias,” said Thompson, who teaches at Yorkshire Elementary School. “I thought that one way to encourage teachers to have these discussions was by providing them with books to help them.”

So far, Thompson has received dozens of books and almost $2,000 to help her campaign. Thanks to the donations she’s received, Thompson said she can provide books to teachers in an increasing number of elementary schools.

In her Facebook post, Thompson listed the books she thought would be particularly helpful to teachers, such as “It’s Okay to be Different” by Todd Parr, “The Skin You Live In” by Michael Tyler and “New Kid” by Jerry Craft. Thompson said she believes teachers can use these books to help their students learn to speak up for themselves and advocate for others.

“The issues of prejudice, bias and racism are not going away, so as a teacher, I feel I have a duty to help the next generation and help promote change,” Thompson said.

Some of the books Thompson is gathering for classroom use. Photo provided.

Mason’s Transformative Teaching Program, which offers an online master’s degree in education, has a “anti-racist curriculum that supports teachers to be empowered advocates for equity in schools,” said Elizabeth DeMulder, professor and academic transformative teaching program coordinator. The program is run through the College of Education and Human Development.

Through the program, “teachers are supported to examine and address structural inequities in their classrooms and schools,” said Assistant Professor Stacia Stribling. “The program emphasizes teacher leadership and engagement in policy, helping teachers to develop the skills to use their voices for social change.”

Associate Professor Jenice View  said that Thompson is a “great example of a transformative anti-racist teacher leader.”

“She saw a problem, developed a plan and implemented the plan,” View said. “We are very excited for her and enthusiastic that she has taken the work we did in the program and felt empowered by it to make substantive material change in the classrooms of her colleagues.”

Thompson said she was overwhelmed by how quickly she began receiving financial donations after initially posting on Facebook. In addition, after CBS This Morning profiled her efforts, books started flooding into a mailing address she’s posted. Thompson said she hasn’t quite figured out how she will deliver the books to local teachers during the pandemic, but that she will find a way, even if it means driving to homes to drop off books.

“I’ll make it happen,” Thompson said.