By Cindy Aviles
Today protests have impacted our community. Activism is a way to get our voices heard. It unites us and allows us to come together and speak out about what we want and what we believe in. Activism shows us that no one is alone and that other people in your community can feel just like you do. Protests and activism are important and powerful, not only to our students but also to our teachers.
I believe teachers’ views are valuable to our students because teachers impact our students’ lives and are a big part of our community. It is important for our students to know teachers support activism too. Activism and protests impact all of us, including our teachers, and our students should know that.
Students learn new things from our teachers every day, and I believe it is important for us to learn that teachers are involved in our community. Activism brings all of us together, and I wanted to prove that by showing our teachers’ views on how activism impacts our community.
Knowing our teachers support activism can make our students feel more connected to our community. This proves teachers aren’t only here to teach us academics but are a part of our community by going out and using activism in a beneficial and empowering way.
Marie Burns, a Rainier science teacher, attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21. PHOTO CREDIT: Marie Burns
I decided to interview three teachers: Veronica Bettencourt and Ashley Pinnell, who teach College Readiness for the Expeditions team, and Marie Burns, who teaches science at Rainier. I wanted to know what they participated in, their views on activism and their key takeaways from activism.
I wanted to interview these three teachers because I knew that they had participated in protests or had done another form of activism. Instead of interviewing students, I felt it was important to know how our teachers feel about activism.
Ms. Burns has used activism in different ways. She attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21; she also contacts her representatives when she can and votes. Ms. Burns also stated, “There are some other marches I’m going to go to: Immigrants March, March for Science and the March for Climate Change.” This shows that Ms. Burns contributes to her community frequently and has participated in different movements.
Marie Burns, a Rainier science teacher, attended the Women’s March in Washington D.C. PHOTO CREDIT: Marie Burns
She talked about her views on activism and what motivated her to participate in past protests. Ms. Burns stated, “I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen and as a human being to somehow find a way to be involved and stand up and protect those rights.” She also said, “When you see a lot of people caring about it, I think it gives people the courage and motivation to be part of that change.”
I also felt it was important to ask what Ms. Burns’ key takeaways were from any protests she participated in the past. She stated, “Even if they don’t feel one person can make a difference, activism shows us as a group it takes individuals coming together to make changes.” This shows how Ms. Burns felt that as a group it is easier to make a difference than only having one person protesting.
I also gave all of the teachers the option to add any comments before the interview ended. Ms. Burns stated, “I think all students should find some way to be active, whether it’s just volunteering or voting when they can, no matter if their values or politics are the same as mine.”
Ms. Pinnell has also used activism in several different ways. She attended the Women’s March, and she volunteered with her local assembly member as an education fellow consultant, where she learned about education in the Bay Area.
Ms. Pinnell stated, “Activism and protests are something we’ve always had in our country, and so just being an American it impacts you.” She also stated, “They unite us, they bring us as one group with a common goal.” She added, “We have one sort of overarching idea that we’re trying to get across, and I think marches and protests kind of do that.”
Aaron Calvert, Entrepreneurship Expeditions teacher, and Ashley Pinnell, College Readiness Expeditions teacher, attended the Women’s March in San Francisco. PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Calvert
Lastly, an important question I asked was, “What are key takeaways people have from a protest or march?” Ms. Pinnell responded, “I think people walk away with a better sense of community and a better sense of what the people want.” She also stated, “They take away a feeling of, oh I’m not the only one, there’s other people around me that feel the same way.” This shows that she feels protests make us feel that we aren’t alone when we are upset about something and want to stand up.
Ms. Bettencourt has used activism in her work and during college. Ms. Bettencourt stated, “I consider my line of work to be a big part of activism because activism to me is just trying to change what you can, where you can.” She also stated, “A lot of what we did for Oscar Grant in particular is actually kind of supporting the community and talking to his friends and family.” Ms. Bettencourt lived in Oakland during her senior year of college, so that is why she contributed to being there to support others during this time.
Veronica Bettencourt, a College Readiness for the Expeditions team, attended a rally in downtown Oakland on July 8, 2010, after the verdict was delivered in the Oscar Grant case. PHOTO CREDIT: Veronica Bettencourt
I also talked to Ms. Bettencourt about her views on activism and how that impacted her. Ms. Bettencourt stated, “Protests in particular have informed a lot of how I feel about changing the world because I think it’s the most basic thing that a person can do is to show up and say no.” She also stated, “Standing with a bunch of people with the same energy arch as you really makes you feel like you can get something done as a team.” This means that activism has impacted her views and that activism can make us feel we are all together.
Ms. Bettencourt stated, “I think it’s important for people to see how many other people feel the same way as them.” She also stated, “I think the most important takeaway is not feeling so alone; it can be really isolating to feel like you live in a country that does not understand you or doesn’t represent what you want.”
Ms. Bettencourt and her mother, Stephanie, attended the Women’s March in San Jose on Jan. 20, 2017. PHOTO CREDIT: Veronica Bettencourt
I believe that activism is important because it’s a tool we can use to get our voices heard and also make a difference. Not only does activism mean protesting, but it means volunteering for your community. If you don’t try and improve your community, there is a chance it will never improve until somebody stands up and contributes in some way.
Interviewing teachers and listening to their views really made me understand that activism can impact all of the decisions made in our country and it can really impact others’ lives. Activism shows us that we aren’t alone because even teachers in our community are contributing to their community. They are using activism in a positive way and so can we.
We should get more involved in activism because it really does make a change and is a way to gather and let out our frustrations while making a difference. Protests might not fix an issue at that moment, but they make the issue known to all of us.
All in all, community means to me all of us using activism as a way to get our voices heard, including our teachers. Teachers really are important people and their views are valid. This shows that all of our community can use activism to make a difference in any community.