ESS Early Learning Academy: Supporting Transitions through an Anti-Bias Lens


by Ashley Walker



“I think we need to change our view of parents from being ‘extra work for teachers’ to ‘assets to the classroom community’,” said one attendee of last week’s Early Learning Academy, which brought together district teams from around the state to examine their back-to-school transition processes through the lenses of anti-bias and culturally responsive practice.

Another participant added, “Family engagement is not about what information the school can effectively deliver to families. It is about eliminating barriers so that schools can receive authentic information from families,” as a basis for co-constructing the best learning environment for every child.

The session opened with an introduction from Brian Berry, superintendent of Yoncalla School District, and Erin Helgren, the CI site liaison for Yoncalla Early Works, who spoke about the ways anti-bias practices have shaped the work they’ve done even in a rural, mostly white community. Truly, an anti-bias approach creates collaboration and partnership with families that leads to improved outcomes for every student and a stronger community for all, while also addressing systemic inequities head-on.

The session was keynoted by Dr. Tonia Durden and Dr. Iheoma Iruka, two of the authors of the book, Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-Bias Classrooms. They shared a wealth of information about the historical and systemic factors that have shaped schools’ interactions with racially and economically marginalized students and families, and highlighted meaningful shifts in classroom and school culture that allow students and parents to engage fully, so that every student is able to reach their potential.



Following the keynote, district teams participated in facilitated planning sessions, working together to apply their learning from the morning to back-to-school transition plans for the coming school year. This work will be ongoing, with districts receiving coaching from the Early School Success (ESS) team throughout the year.


Additional Resources

Professional Development Resource List Developed by Drs. Durden & Iruka

Links to Related Content

Podcast: Anti-Bias Education in Action

Podcast: Anti-Bias Education in Early Childhood

Podcast: Foregrounding Racial Equity in Early Childhood

A Glimpse of How Yoncalla’s Youngest Learners Spend Their Day



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