Lyman teacher earns CEA human/civil rights award

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Mon., Jun. 10, 2013
Liza Escott (right) and her Lyman colleague Kevin Brodie, in an ad campaign that they shot to help promote diversity and acceptance. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

Lyman Memorial High School teacher Liza Escott has been chosen as the 2013 recipient of the Susan B. Anthony-Prudence Crandall Award for Equality Education. “The award is given by the CEA (Connecticut Education Association), and only one teacher is chosen in the entire state,” said Kevin Brodie, a fellow Lyman teacher who nominated Escott for the award.

Responding to praise for the atmosphere of acceptance being nurtured at the school, Brodie pointed to his colleague. “Most of the credit goes to Liza Escott,” said Brodie. “It is her vision, passion and energy as diversity coordinator that really makes all of these events possible.”

Recent events such as a diversity fair and an appearance by "Hotel Rwanda" subject Paul Rusesabagina represent a small portion of the activities at Lyman designed to foster an acceptance of diversity (see this ReminderNews article for more about Lyman efforts:

According to a CEA publication, to be eligible for the Susan B. Anthony-Prudence Crandall Award a nominee must have “developed and/or implemented a program in a school or  in the community” that focuses on at least two of the following areas: furthering an understanding of the achievements of women in history and society, promoting gender equity training for educators, promoting the elimination of racism and discriminatory attitudes and practices in education, collaborating with groups concerned with human rights and furthering an understanding of our multicultural society in a meaningful way.

“It was Kevin's idea to nominate me for the award,” said Escott. Brodie filled out the application, and Escott was required to supply supporting documentation. “It actually took quite a while to go through all of my files,” said Escott.

Promoting acceptance goes beyond the special events held throughout the school year, according to Escott. “As any teacher will tell you, when we include awareness of others and respect for others in our teaching, we are not usually consciously making the decision to teach in that manner, it's just part of who we are as individuals, and is therefore reflected in how and what we teach,” she said.

Escott provides an example regarding her approach to teaching “To Kill A Mockingbird.” “We were discussing how life is different in the south for many people, even today, and how we often do not realize just how fortunate we are in the north,” she said. With her students struggling to understand the issue, Escott invited in a friend who had just moved back to Connecticut after 10 years of living in Alabama.

The students “devised a series of questions that related to the themes in the book (such as racism, children, the law, poverty, being a female), set up a panel to interview her, and were absolutely and perfectly attentive for the entire class period of her visit,” said Escott. “That is the sort of thing I feel is not only a valuable learning experience for my students, but an active one which hopefully will resonate for a long time to come.”

Escott also brings into her teaching world music, social justice issues from around the world and awareness and support for a variety of charity organizations. “I believe that my responsibility is not just to educate my students in English as a subject, but to help mold them into respectful and responsible citizens of the world we live in,” she said. 

Escott points to Lyman’s core values, which include a dedication to an engaging and rigorous curriculum which emphasizes real world experiences and applications, and a school culture which fosters acceptance of diversity and the natural curiosity of all learners.  “I take [these issues] quite seriously as part of my responsibility as an educator in the Lyman community,” she said.

When she received news of winning the award, “I was actually quite embarrassed, as I am not one who is fond of the spotlight,” said Escott. “At heart I am a back-stage organizer of events and do the things I do because I enjoy them, and I enjoy watching students learn and participate in things they normally might not have the opportunity to experience.”

Liza Escott is scheduled to receive the Susan B. Anthony-Prudence Crandall Award at the CEA Awards Dinner, on Aug. 5 at Mohegan Sun.

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