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Summit encourages educators to reclaim joy in classrooms

equity in ed

The College of Education and Allied Professions is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by developing educators through teaching, service and research.

By Chaz Lilly

Western Carolina University will bring together state and national scholars, regional educators, students and community members to share innovative and caring practices for equity in education.

This will be the second annual year WCU has organized the event.

The theme for the 2024 Equity in Education Summit, is “Reclaiming Joy in Our Schools.” It will run Feb. 26-27 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville.

“The idea of centering this year’s summit around joy is a good one,” said Kim K. Winter, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions. “Having the courage to commit to a collective agenda that challenges the structural inequities inherent in our educational system is essential. This work – and the conversations and learning that accompany it – can be heavy. But the work is necessary if our goal is to yield meaningful change in our equity practices.”

gholdy muhammed

Gholdy Muhammed will give the opening keynote address on day one.

To spur those necessary conversations, Gholdy Muhammed, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will give the opening keynote address on day one. Among other best-selling titles, Muhammed is the author of “Unearthing Joy: A Guide to Culturally and Historically Responsive Teaching and Learning.” Pharrell Williams, famed music producer, songwriter and and singer of the pop hit “Happy,” penned the foreward of the book.

“Dr. Muhammed encourages teachers and school leaders to cultivate joy in themselves and in the beautiful humans they serve. Schools should be spaces of joyful manifestations, where curriculum, community and consciousness uncover what makes each student special,” Williams wrote.

The day two keynote will be given by Anneliese Singh, who studies social change and resilence to learn what builds just and empowering communities. Her book, “The Racial Healing Handbook,” is a powerful and practical guide to help navigate racism, challenge privilege and heal from trauma.

annaliese singh

Anneliese Singh will speak on day two of the summit.

The summit also includes breakout sessions, round table discussions, poster presentations, a world-café and a wellness space for educators. K-12 student groups will perform between events and some will participate in breakout sessions.

Last year, Asheville High School teacher and WCU alumna Jessica Williams brought students from her “Introduction to Socially Just Education” class to the summit.

“The experience was transformational for my students. They saw the issues we discussed in class brought to life. They walked away knowing that educators and scholars – that a wider community – was invested in tackling these big issues of injustice and equity,” Williams said.

This year, her students are reading texts from both keynote speakers in preparation.


jess weiler

Jess Weiler, associate professor of educational leadership, said the summit aims to connect stakeholders for the betterment of schools and students.

Jess Weiler, associate professor of educational leadership, who organized the event, said the event’s programming is meant for educators like Williams on the front lines, in the classroom. “The summit is intended to bring the educational community together and build our collective capacity to create schools where students and families feel safe, valued, supported and empowered to learn,” said Weiler. “Many educators and educational organizations in our region are working toward this goal, but often in individual silos. The summit is an opportunity to connect those working to make schools more equitable and inclusive for all students.”


The event is open to the public. 

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