At the heart of St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s diversity work is the belief that an educational community is at its best when it includes and values all voices, perspectives, and experiences. At SPA, maintaining an inclusive, multicultural environment is inherent to our mission and evident in our community: in 2018-19, 32% of children enrolled at SPA are students of color. Our faculty and staff also represent a broad range of diverse identities with regard to race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation.
All members of the SPA community—students, faculty, staff, and parents—are accountable for creating and sustaining a climate of understanding, safety, and respect. SPA is a place where everyone feels comfortable expressing who they are and what they believe, regardless of race, gender, religion, learning style, political views, sexual orientation, or economic status. We seek to prepare SPA students to be thoughtful, curious, and engaged citizens of our increasingly global and interconnected world. Multicultural perspectives are woven throughout the K–12 curriculum in age-appropriate ways that spark students’ interest and deepen their understanding of individual, national, and global identity. In the Lower School, there is an emphasis on themes of people and their history, geography, and cultures through units such as ones focused on Minnesota’s indigenous people or African, Mayan, and Hawaiian cultures, and through the study of Spanish beginning in kindergarten. Middle School language courses (German, French, and Chinese, along with Spanish) place heavy emphasis on cultural awareness, and social studies classes culminate in a multicultural study of diverse histories and cultures of the United States, focusing on nationality, race, and gender in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the Upper School, students’ course choices include Gender in Literature, World Religions, and History of U.S. Social Movements. The curriculum has grown to better reflect the current national and global dialogue as well as the increasing cultural diversity of our families.
Students and faculty are regularly engaged in multi-cultural enrichment outside of the classroom as well. Past guest speakers have included local storyteller Nothando Zulu, who explored African American history with Lower Schoolers; Aamera Siddiqui, whose As American as Curry Pie monologue depicts her family’s journey to becoming American citizens; and actor T. Mychal Rambo and his rousing one-man performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The school’s ongoing relationship with Penumbra Theatre is built into the experiential learning program in the Lower and Middle Schools. In addition, SPA staff and faculty are engaged in ongoing professional development related to equity and diversity. Organizations such as Tolerance Minnesota and the Islamic Resource Group have shared information and tools on timely and relevant issues affecting our community. In 2016, the school implemented the “Courageous Conversations” program, a protocol developed by the Pacific Educational Group (PEG) to help engage and sustain meaningful and productive dialogue about race in K-12 schools. PEG works with communities at the systemic level, recognizing that it is not just diversity initiatives and activities that transform a school, but that “effectively examining organizational culture” is essential for equity and justice to both be achieved and sustained.
At SPA, diversity is much more than a buzzword. Everyone’s voice is essential here, and we work hard to ensure that every student and parent finds a place to belong in our community. As one of our Lower School students put it when asked about SPA’s diversity, “everyone fits in here even if you’re just being yourself; no one feels different or alone.”
Karen Dye, Director of Intercultural Life
Joining the SPA community in 2005, Karen Dye brings a wealth of diversity experience to SPA from roles at Macalester College, where she served as Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Admissions, and the Roeper School in Michigan, where she was the Director of College Counseling and the Diversity Coordinator.
As Director of Intercultural Life at SPA, she chairs the Faculty/Staff Diversity and Inclusion Committee, serves on the Leadership Team, Admission Committees, Academic Council, and Calendar Committee, and was on the Strategic Plan Committee on Culture and Community. With a B.A. in English from Rockford College in Illinois and an M.A. in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University, Karen “never intended to teach full time but wanted to be in the classroom regularly, partially to build meaningful relationships with the kids I'd be serving so I can best evaluate community needs.” Beyond her visits to the classroom, Karen also works with students as Advisor for Intercultural Club and Common Ground and by occasionally teaching Wellness courses in the Middle School. “By getting to know each child in a real way, working with them where they're at, and challenging them very individually to reach further” she is able to help students realize their unique potential. Email Karen.