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 2019-20, 33% 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.”
DR. NAOMI TAYLOR, DIRECTOR OF INTERCULTURAL LIFE
Dr. Naomi R. Taylor joined St. Paul Academy and Summit School in 2019 as the school's K-12 Director of Intercultural Life. Dr. Taylor brings a wealth of experience and leadership in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees at the University of Minnesota, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Hamline University. She began her career as an elementary teacher for Saint Paul Public Schools; after discovering her love for theory, research, and practice, she transitioned into higher education as a professor and continues that work as an adjunct faculty member in Hamline University's School of Education. In 2014, she returned to public education in district-level roles for Minneapolis Public Schools as the Educational Equity Coordinator and Director of Secondary Education, and also served as a fourth-grade classroom teacher. Dr. Taylor is is a lifelong learner, teacher, mother, and proud matriarch of her extended family. She practices self-care by spending time with her family and friends, and engaging in meditation, reading, writing, and yoga.
The Director of Intercultural Life works in collaboration with all constituencies of the school, including students, faculty, staff, administration, and parents. Consistent with the school's mission of “shaping the minds and the hearts of the people who will change the world,” the Director creates and implements policies, practices, and programming that help build and support a diverse and inclusive community. Dr. Taylor invites all members of the SPA community to reach out with questions, concerns, or just to connect. Email Dr. Taylor.