Author Archives: Woody

Second Graders Get Multicultural Library

When Ivy Horan was an elementary school student in Duxbury, Mass., she never saw books about people who looked like her.

Ivy Horan

Last summer, as she began to prepare for her first teaching position, she decided to provide a different experience for her second graders at Mayberry School in East Hartford.

She posted an appeal on Facebook and other social media for donations of books on multicultural topics featuring diverse people.

I got the idea for this multicultural book project from reflecting upon my own K-12 schooling experience,” she said. “I realized that I never was exposed to diverse or multicultural books. This has been my motivation throughout my entire project: to ensure that my students are given more representative books than I was as a child.”

UConn Graduate

Ms. Horan received an Alma Exley Memorial Scholarship in 2019 as a student at UConn. She received her master’s degree in May 2020 and began her teaching career in September.

Ivy Horan with some selections from her multicultural library

“I have collected more than 60 books that have characters from different backgrounds, races, cultures, religions, and with varying familial compositions,” she said. “I am working on finding as many different representative and diverse books as I can for my classroom library.”

Inspiring Diverse Students

This is relevant because all of Ms. Horan’s second graders are students of color. Her class includes students who are Black, Latino and mixed-race. A number are English-language learners, who speak Spanish as well as African languages.

Click here to visit the Amazon site to contribute one or more books to Ms. Horan’s classroom library.

The books in Ms. Horan’s multicultural library are listed at the end of this story.

“I am extremely thankful for the donations,” she said. “I received books from family members, friends, professors, and various people whom I worked with throughout my time at UConn.

“What was most surprising was that I also received books from a handful of old friends from middle school and high school whom I haven’t talked to in years. It was amazing to see how everyone, whether I have remained close to them or not, came out to support my project and me. I am forever grateful. Every book that I received is now in my classroom library.”

She began by posting a wish-list of books from Amazon. Down the road, she hopes to expand her outreach to find more programs or websites that could help her find more diverse books for her classroom.

Right now, because of Covid-19 guidelines, Ms. Horan is the only one who can touch the books. Because of this, she is using the books as “mentor texts” and reading aloud to her students.

Supporting the Curriculum

“I also use these diverse books in teaching some of my curriculum,” she added. “For example, last week we were doing a lesson on ‘taking notes’ with informational or nonfiction texts. We had been reading a book about sharks, but instead of continuing with that book, I used the book ‘Turning Pages: My Life Story’ by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Not only is this story about the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, it also aligned perfectly with our celebration and recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.

“So not only can I use the books as read-aloud, I can also use them within the curriculum. In the future, I hope to turn my classroom into a lending library where students can keep the books at their seats for a designated amount of time and do independent reading. But for the time being with Covid-19, this is my safest approach.

“My students love the books,” she said. “It has been really wonderful to see students making connections from their own lives to the books.

“For example, I have a handful of students who speak Spanish. When we read the book, ‘Mango, Abuela, and Me’ by Meg Medina, those students were really excited to hear some of the Spanish words they know. This engaged the entire class in a conversation about language and what other Spanish words they know, who in their family speaks Spanish, and how they learned Spanish.

Encouraging Conversations

“These multicultural texts have been a foundation to help my students and me have more conversations about diversity and connect the ideas from the books to our own lives.”

Ms. Horan takes seriously her responsibility to serve as a positive role model for her students. “I have a class that is all students of color, and I know I am making an impact by just being their teacher since I am a teacher of color,” she said.

“I create a safe, welcoming, and loving community for all students and foster a community of care within my room every day. And that, books aside, is what our students of color so often need with everything going on in our world today.”

Hearty congratulations to Ivy for taking the initiative in her first year on the job to create a welcoming classroom environment for her diverse students.

  • Woody Exley

Ms. Horan’s Culturally Diverse and Representative Class Library

*Updated 10/22/20

Book TitleAuthor
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-InsCarole Boston Weatherford
The Color of UsKaren Katz
Little FishSanne te Loo
Kali and the Rat SnakeZai Whitaker
Yagua DaysCruz Martel
Sosu’s CallMeshack Asare
New Clothes for New Year’s DayHyun-Joo Bae
Where Are You From?Yamile Saied Méndez
Jabari JumpsGaia Cornwall
Ada Twist, ScientistAndrea Beaty 
Uncle Jed’s BarbershopMargaree King Mitchell
AbuelaArthur Dorros
Mae Among the StarsRoda Ahmed
Too Many TamalesGary Soto 
The Jolly MonJimmy Buffet & Savannah Jane Buffet
Priscilla and the HollyhocksAnne Broyles
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the AshantiGerald McDermott
Hush!Mingfong Ho
Whoever You AreMem Fox
Tiger in My SoupKashmira Sheth
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti PLainVerma Aardema
Round is a Tortilla: A Book of ShapesRoseanne Greenfield Thong
City ShapesDiana Murray
Bein’ with You This Way W. Nikola-Lisa
LoveMatt de la Peña 
City GreenDyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial InjusticeMarianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard 
Almost to FreedomVaunda Micheaux Nelson
Suki’s KimonoChieri Uegaki
Freedom SoupTami Charles
Mama MitiDonna Jo Napoli
Carmela Full of WishesMatt de la Peña 
Cool CutsMechal Renee Roe
Chocolate Me!Taye Diggs
Happy HairMichal Renee Roe
Hair LoveMatthew A. Cherry
Don’t Touch My Hair!Sharee Miller 
I Like Myself!Karen Beaumont
Just LIke MeVanessa Brantley-Newton
My Hair is a GardenCozbi A. Cabrera
Amy Wu and the Perfect BaoKat Zhang
Dear JunoSoyung Pak
Sumo JoeMia Wenjen
Fry Bread: A Native American Family StoryKevin Noble Maillard
WindowsJulia Denos
DreamersYuyi Morales
Grace for PresidentKelly DiPucchio
The Word CollectorPeter H. Reynolds
A Day’s WorkEve Bunting 
Sitti’s SecretsNaomi Shihab Nye
Ma’ii and the Cousin Horned ToadShonto Begay
Lailah’s LunchboxReem Faruqi
KeeprsJeri Hanel Watts & Felicia Marshall
Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s BackJoseph Bruchac & Jonathan London
Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Fatuma’s New ClothLeslie Bulion
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of ColorsHena Khan
IslandbornJunot Díaz
The Name JarYangsook Choi
Mango, Abuela, and MeMeg Medina 
You Matter Christian Robinson
I Promise Lebron James
I Am EnoughGrace Byers 
Under My HijabHena Khan
Thunder Boy Jr. Sherman Alexie
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific NorthwestGerald McDermott 
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale Verna Aardema
Ohana Means FamilyIlima Loomis
This Is the Rope Jacqueline Woodson 
Be the Difference: 40+ Ideas for Kids to Create Positive Change Using Empathy, Kindness, Equality, and Environmental AwarenessJayneen Sanders
V is for Voting Kate Farrell
Speak Up Miranda Paul
What If We Were All the Same! C.M. Harris 
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal VirtuosaAndrew Davis Pinkney
A Computer Called KatherineSuzanne Slade
Counting on KatherineHelaine Becker
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black HistoryVashti Harrison 
Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True StoryRuby Bridges 
Turning PagesSonia Sotomayor
The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. PaymeLesa Cline-Ransome
Fight for the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s StoryRebecca Langston-George
Malala’s Magic PencilMalala Yousafzai
Martin’s Big WordsDoreen Rappaport
Child of the Civil Rights MovementPaula Young Shelton & Raul Colón
Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in AmericaDeborah Diesen

New Britain Teacher Expanding the Teacher Pipeline

Sandy Fraioli is taking an ambitious, long-term approach to increasing diversity in the teacher corps. She is starting in high school.

In a pre-Covid-19 photo, Sandy Fraioli, front left, with Colleen Moffett-Mals, who is teaching the Rising Educators course, and their students, front row from left, Shaza Oufi, Lizmarie Maldonado, Deseriah Castillo and Romona Hall, and back row from left, Evan Vinas, Ethan Roy and Maram Aljahmi.

For seven years Ms. Fraioli has led a program to encourage students at New Britain High School – particularly students of color — to pursue careers in teaching. Since then, students from NBHS have enrolled in teacher-preparation programs at Central, Eastern, Southern Connecticut State Universities, University of Saint Joseph, University of Hartford, UConn and Arizona State. And some have graduated and have become teachers.

Sandy Fraioli is Lead Teacher, Family and Consumer Sciences, at NBHS and Teacher Leader in Residence at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Expanding Into Eight More Districts

Three years ago Ms. Fraioli established a partnership with Educators Rising, a national organization that provides a curriculum of courses to motivate high school students and help them to prepare for careers in education.

This semester, the Connecticut State Department of Education is launching EdRising initiatives in eight additional school districts, Danbury, Hamden, Hartford, Meriden, New Haven, New London, Stamford, Waterbury and Windsor. Ms. Fraioli hopes to have the same success in these districts that she has achieved in New Britain.

Ramona Hall, who took the course at NBHS, has been admitted to UConn, where she plans to enroll in the Neag School of Education.

“The Educators Rising course definitely helped me to decide what I want to do,” she said. “I had so many good experiences.” As part of the class, she volunteered at elementary and pre-school programs in New Britain. She also did a lot of reading and viewed TED talks about multicultural education.

Ramona Hall, a graduate of New Britain High School, has begun at UConn.

“We learned about the need to be aware of different kids’ situations and how to adapt to teaching in different environments,” she said. “We learned so much about teaching in a diverse community.

“Definitely take the class,” is her advice to other high school students. “It’s so worth it. I’m so happy I took it. The focus on actual teaching was really valuable.”

Dr. Shuana Tucker

Dr. Shuana Tucker, Chief Talent Officer, at the Connecticut State Department of Education, introduced Ms. Fraioli to Educators Rising three years ago when she learned about her efforts to interest students in teaching careers.

“We are pleased to partner with the National EdRising/Phi Delta Kappa organization and the Buck Foundation to implement a proven grow-your-own model to diversify our educator pipeline here in Connecticut,” she said.

Dr. Violet Jiménez Sims

Kudos From New Britain Board Member

Dr. Violet Jiménez Sims, an Alma Exley Scholar who serves on the New Britain Board of Education, is excited by the way the program has grown from the seed she planted a decade ago.

Dr. Sims initiated and taught the Teacher Cadet course from 2010 to 2012 when she was a teacher at New Britain High School. Sandy Fraioli took over the program in 2013 and nurtured its growth over the pasts seven years. This year Dr. Sims joined the UConn faculty as associate director of teacher preparation at the Neag School.

“I am excited to see the program’s growth and evolution, and the continued support it has received,” said Dr. Sims. “My priorities as a member of the New Britain Board of Education (BOE) remain what they were when I was a teacher in the district — ensuring equity and access for all of our students.

“The EdRising program not only provides the scaffolding for diverse students to become interested in and be able to access teacher education programs, but it also provides a pipeline for bringing graduates back into our community and school system.

Graduate Teaching in New Britain

“In fact, those results are already evident,” she said. “I still keep in touch with several alumni of the first cohort I taught nearly 10 years ago. One is now an elementary school teacher in the district! I look forward to seeing more graduates who participate in this program noted on our BOE personnel reports as new hires.”

At a time when only eight percent of Connecticut public school teachers are persons of color, educators have tried a variety of efforts to achieve greater diversity at the front of the classroom. Many have recognized that efforts to recruit more teachers of color must start early. Waiting until students are in college may be too late.

Moving Into Middle School

“We also had a club at the middle school this year,” Ms. Fraioli said. “Those students are starting high school knowing they want to be teachers. The younger we start the better.

“Our students need teachers who are reflective of the population they’re working with,” she said. “Diversifying our pool of teachers is essential for all ethnicities.

“The earlier we begin planting the seeds in our students that they have the knowledge, confidence and skills to become a teacher, the more apt that they will be to pursue a career in teaching. This has to start now!”

Jessica Raugitinane Meets the Challenge of Teaching Remotely

Covid-19 has turned teaching upside down.

But Jessica Raugitinane, who is teaching her fourth-graders remotely, has found a way to create a familiar, positive classroom culture despite the distance.

We honored Ms. Raugitinane in 2012 when she was an undergraduate at UConn’s Neag School of Education. She earned her master’s degree in 2014 and has been teaching dual-language English and social studies at Mount Vernon Community School in Alexandria, Va., for several years.

She also trains teachers in her school district in strategies from Project GLAD® (Guided Language Acquisition Design), which promotes English language learning and high academic achievement in a positive classroom culture.

Converting to Remote Learning

Educators have recognized that implementing remote learning requires much more than just placing a computer in front of the teacher.

When the pandemic forced the Alexandria schools to convert to remote learning, Ms. Raugitinane realized she would have to make significant changes. She was determined to ensure that her students would still receive the education they need and deserve. She committed to continue using her successful best practices while adapting them to the virtual world.

“When my school shut down, I had to learn how to command an in-person job through a computer screen,” she said. “Fortunately, my school helped me discover the RULER approach developed at Yale and Larry Ferlazzo’s Seven Tips for Remote Teaching.

“Combined, these techniques solidified my decision to focus on the social emotional needs of my students before diving into academic content. However, applying Project GLAD® strategies enabled me to address my students’ social emotional needs while continuing to develop their language learning.”

Quite a bit of preparation was required. Ms. Raugitinane completed the RULER online training in four hours, then devoted her spring break (10 eight-hour days) to creating the 10-lesson mini-unit plan using the interactive Nearpod website. This included creating the lessons on Google Slides first and then making them interactive with Nearpod.

“I was motivated to invest the time in creating this 10-lesson mini-unit plan so that I would have a reusable template for plugging in future content,” she said. “Later I plugged in the Social Studies content to teach about Jim Crow Laws and segregation. That 10-lesson mini unit plan took me four days, compared to the original 10 days for the first unit plan.

“I wanted to make sure I was applying my knowledge of Project GLAD® strategies and Nearpod to make an interactive, language-rich academic environment, while creating a routine for myself and my students.”

Sharing Her Experience

She recently shared her experience in distance learning in an article in Soleado, a publication of Dual Language Education of New Mexico.

The article provides a wealth of techniques and strategies that will be useful to teachers intent on meeting the needs of their students during this stressful and demanding time. Read the full article.

As she wrote in the article:

“With the global pandemic taking us all on an emotional roller coaster, helping my students navigate their own emotions within this new quarantined world became paramount.

“Fortunately, at the start of the closure, I learned about RULER, an evidence-based, systemic approach to social-emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (

“RULER stands for the five skills of emotional intelligence: recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating. The RULER online training taught the importance of developing students’ emotional literacy. Essentially, providing students with the language of emotions enables them to better identify and express their feelings.

“I also learned the value of asking students the simple question: ‘How are you feeling?’ before beginning a lesson as a way to regulate emotion and encourage more on-task behavior. Undoubtedly, helping students understand and express their emotions during these uncertain times became the heart of my remote teaching.”

Additional Lessons

Among the other lessons she learned in preparing to teach remotely:

  • Establishing an equitable and accessible routine provided much-needed consistency for my students and myself.
  • Three tips from Larry Ferlazzo’s Seven Tips for Remote Teaching are essential: 1) emphasize social-emotional learning; 2) minimize synchronous online meetings: 3) keep things simple.
  • Both RULER and Ferlazzo’s advice prioritize social-emotional connections as a necessary ingredient to academic success, especially during distance learning.
  • Ferlazzo’s advice further encouraged me to deliver learning both synchronously and asynchronously in order to provide equity of access to students. And to keep things simple, I focused on teaching a unit’s main concepts rather than attempting to cover a myriad of information.

Congratulations to Jessica Raugitinane for rising to the challenge of remote learning, cultivating new knowledge and skills, and sharing her learnings with fellow professionals who are facing the same daunting challenge.

  • Woody Exley