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Member & Activist Spotlight

Aneeka Ferrell: Using my Equity Lens

Aneeka Ferrell is a Recruitment Coordinator in Renton, Washington
Aneeka Ferrell
Published: April 18, 2022

After I joined my state union, the Washington Education Association, I received an email asking if I would be interested in receiving training or to be part of a train-the-trainer program. I’m not the type of person who just sits back and doesn't say or do anything. I like to be actively involved, and so I immediately said, yes.

A year later, in 2016, I became a part of a WEA cadre to train educators on implicit bias. The purpose of this work is to help change how educators treat, see, and respond to people of color. We help educators explore who they are, what they do, and how they do it, as well as help them unpack and unlearn their biases.

Understanding implicit bias is so important because it affects our most marginalized students, including our Black and brown students, and it impacts the way people see people. It’s also hard and uncomfortable work. But during my trainings, I emphasize that experiencing discomfort around one’s biases means a shift is happening. It’s OK to experience discomfort because it’s a sign that the person is learning and moving along the growth spectrum.

My union, from the local to national levels, has been wonderful. They have seen my commitment to equity and have supported the work I’m doing by continuously providing me with the space to have a positive impact on everyone in the classroom.

The NEA, for example, invited me to take part in the Education Support Professionals Leadership Institute, where I learned how diversity, equity, and cultural competence are integral to education leadership. I’ve also been involved in NEA’s Diversity Collective, a cadre of educators who have developed proposals to increase racial diversity in the workforce.

These union-sponsored trainings and the knowledge I’ve gained from meeting so many people across Washington State have allowed me to apply my equity lens to the work I do in my district.

As a recruitment coordinator, I'm responsible for recruiting educators from within and outside of the state. I also oversee and manage the district’s Grow Your Own program, among other things. By using an equity lens, I’m able to ensure equitable practices are infused in our hiring process, as well as find new ways to help diversify the education pool.

My goal is to help increase educators of color so that our students of color can see themselves beyond their classrooms and thriving in a society where they're making a difference. They may even consider education as an option for themselves. But we must continue to have implicit bias trainings and continue to have difficult conversations. Otherwise, our most marginalized students will continue to be negatively impacted by the actions of educators.

And I thank my union for the opportunity to be a voice—a voice that sounds different and that comes from a person who looks different than most people in the organization. But it’s a voice that is relatable and willing to share it with anyone and everyone, unapologetically, if the outcomes positively impacts our most marginalized students in order for ALL students to benefit equitably and inclusively.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.