A group of students made up of members from Southeast Polk High School’s Student Council and diversity awareness student organization, HUDDLE, led faculty in professional development sessions aimed at improving diversity and inclusion during the two hour late start yesterday.

The sessions included conversations about recognizing microaggressions, creating more inclusive classrooms and understanding the role privilege has in society.  Teachers also listened to a panel discussion during which students shared their experiences, thoughts and hopes for the future.

“I felt this professional development was definitely needed within the district and was applicable to every teacher in the building,” said social studies teacher Madelyn Kieler. 

The idea for the presentation began after students attended the Youth Diversity Summit put on by Wellmark and Des Moines Public Schools last fall.  During the event, Southeast Polk students and staff interacted with participants from over 20 Des Moines area schools to discuss issues related to diversity and inclusion.  Inspired to bring the ideas back to the district, the group of students has collaborated to plan, create and present the information. Throughout the presentation, teachers were impressed with the students’ knowledge, honesty and presentation skills.

“These students helped me reflect on my classroom and how to make my classroom more inclusive for everyone. I would enjoy having more training and professional development on this as our growing district becomes more diverse,” said Kieler.

The presentation included a video from Ram Cam, the high school’s video production class, that shared various perspectives of Southeast Polk High School students and staff.

The student presenters were freshmen Lynndon Bissell and Tanner Stults, sophomore Kali Dennis, juniors Abla Stree, Jeffrey Khattiya, Kailee Quang and Patrick Tunks; and seniors Amarita Sheriff and Nyamat Thor. The group was advised by high school language arts teachers Emily Gienapp and Shannon Stusse-Grote and District Learning Supports Coordinator Laurie Wyatt.