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remote fireside chat

March 1, 2021

This Is Us Fireside Chat: March 16 Student Panel

Register for the "This Is Us" fireside chat, March 16 at 7 p.m. EST. These chats  are an opportunity to learn from each other and AFT experts.


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By Rosalind LaRocque

I’m excited to introduce our panelists for the This Is Us fireside chat, March 16 at 7 p.m. EST. These chats, sponsored by AFT local site coordinators, are an opportunity to learn from each other and AFT experts, and provide concrete takeaways and additional resources. Check out our panelists below!


As education stakeholders continue to debate the impact of the pandemic and distance learning on students, we must leverage the voices of students in the contentious and courageous conversations that focus on them. Students deserve a seat at the decision-making table. Tune in to this student panel to learn how the pandemic has impacted and shaped students' high school experiences.

If you are teacher, student, parent or anyone interested in student perspectives, this fireside chat is for you. This panel will give attendees the chance to hear diverse perspectives on how young people have been affected, what they need in this pivotal moment as well as where we go from here. All are welcome, AFT members and non-members alike.

Register now to mark your calendar.

navardo butler

Navardo Butler

After I leave school, I aspire to be an entrepreneur and a real estate agent, learning new practices to further my knowledge on my craft. I also want to have a degree in marketing. One area that most interests me is Black history and Black culture. I enjoy learning about my ancestors and the knowledge they have left behind for future generations to find. Other things you should know about me are that I have a great sense of humor, and I love basketball.

Anjonae’ Coleman

After I have completed school, I aspire to become a part of the medical field, possibly a doctor or forensic scientist. Along with that, I would like to start my photography career and start to sell my photos. I have now been accepted in the Museum of Science and Industry’s 2021 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition and the 2021 All-City Visual Art Senior Portfolio Exhibition at the School of the Art Institute.

An area that most interests me is nature photography. I want people to see nature through my eyes: Nature surrounds us every day, and many people never take the time to appreciate the beauty in going outside that makes simple things that much more exciting. I enhance colors already there or remove select colors to change the perspective we have of nature in itself, emphasizing the emotional effect of the world around us. Nature is a part of our every day, and yet we never take the time to look at what is around us unless we are traveling. Every day doing simple things, I look around to see this beautiful scenery around me, and I wish I could freeze time to look at it forever.

Kevin Diaz

I aspire to major in computer science at any college. I know some students have their mind determined on the school they would like to attend, but school can get pretty expensive. I've been accepted to schools such as Marymount, George Mason, Ohio, Colorado Denver and many more. However, their tuition is over $20,000, so it makes it nearly impossible for me to afford it. I am doing my best to apply to as many scholarships as possible. I'm aiming to apply to five scholarships per day. In addition, I love everything related to technology. My parents jokingly say that kids our age are pre-programmed to know everything about the internet. Our whole world revolves around technology, and its ever growing industry. One day, everything in the world will be controlled by technology such as our currency, schools, and maybe even transportation. Technology is beautiful because it fits everyone; you can be old or young, a female, or male, or even an orange. Technology doesn't discriminate. One thing you guys should know about me is, I appeared on TV over the summer!

Patryk Dziedzic

Throughout my entire life, computers and technology have always fascinated me. I would toy around with everything my desktop had to offer, which eventually led to my love of coding and computer science when I took the course in high school. However, my empathetic nature and love of helping others academically brought me to become a volunteer teacher at my church for the third grade, as well as a mathematics tutor. I was initially conflicted as to which career I should pursue—computing or teaching. After some advice from teachers, family and peers as well as personal reflection, I have decided to gain experience in the field of computer science and then pursue my passion of sharing my knowledge with others by becoming an educator.

Lamine Kone
After graduating from Thurgood Marshall Academy, I plan on continuing my education as an undergraduate student at a college or university. Currently, I am a youth representative at the National Action Network. With the support of NAN, I am educating the youth in my community about politics and taking actions to make a change in my community. My goal is to become an entrepreneur after college or work in the business world.

Macy McClaren

I live in Niceville, Fla., and I go to Niceville High School. I plan to go to college next year. I am still deciding which one, but I’m leaning toward the University of Florida. Right now, my major for most schools I applied to is business, but I am interested in aviation and hope to do something in that field. A fun fact about me is that I play the clarinet.

Megan McFarney

After high school, I plan on going to college for animal services. Once I am out of school, I plan on getting a job that goes with my major, living on my own but in the company of my own pets, and just enjoying life working in the field of animals. I would say that one subject that most interests me is history. I find learning about the past and why things are how they are very fascinating. Another thing to know about me) is that I enjoy writing and would like to publish a novel one day. It is a plus that my school offers a creative writing class, and I got into it this semester which I am really excited about!

Danny Ringel
Hi. I am a senior at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Washington, D.C. After graduating from high school, I plan to go to college with a major in business focusing on business strategy and management. As for a career, I like the concept of consultancy and being a management consultant because I really enjoy solving difficult problems related to business, but that may change over the next few years. One thing you should know about me is that I really enjoy playing and watching all kinds of sports from skiing to wakeboarding.

Abdur-Raqeeb Umrani

I’m a 17-year-old from McKinley Technology High school, and I plan to attend a four-year college for a degree in engineering. I aspire to be an automotive or computer engineer after school because the subjects interest me greatly. Another thing you should know about me is that I have done numerous fireside chats before and public speaking often.

And our facilitator, Sarah Elwell

Professional Development Coordinator, Washington Teachers' Union

A native Washingtonian, Elwell is a product of Washington, D.C. public schools where she has spent her career since graduating from Swarthmore College with a major in English/education and a concentration in Black studies. She served the city's youth for eight years as an English teacher and 11 years as a librarian. Elwell became a WTU professional development instructor in 2008 and an AFT national trainer in 2009. She was a member of the WTU executive board for six years, a CityBridge Education Innovation Fellow, and a Share My Lesson ambassador.

She has worked closely with central office English language arts and social studies in curriculum development and serves as the co-executive director of the DC Future Business Leaders of America as a strong proponent of career and technical education.

Elwell is a firm believer in the power of co-curricular activities to supplement the core curriculum, and has built strong relationships with school staff and community partners to provide new opportunities for youth. She has been the sponsor of poetry clubs, book clubs, Future Business Leaders of America, debate team, Poetry Out Loud, Mikva Challenge, LifeSmarts, YMCA Youth & Government, Global Kids and the DCPS Study Abroad Program. She is dedicated to expanding and strengthening educators’ professional learning experiences so that they can guide students in how to think critically.

About the Author: Rosalind LaRocque

Dr. Rosalind LaRocque received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, where she graduated with honors.  She began her teaching career in 1975, in the Commonwealth of Dominica preparing students for the external General Certificate Exam set by Cambridge, London and served briefly as an examiner for the Caribbean Examinations Council, in Barbados. 

Before leaving Dominica Rosalind taught at the Convent High School and the St. Mary’s Academy. On the cultural scene she managed and choreographed dances for her dance group La Belle Theatre and her love for theater earned her he lead role in the People’s Action Theatre-Speak Brother Speak, directed by Alwyn Bully, theatrical production master extraordinaire.

In 1982, she obtained her MA in Education from the University of the Virgin Islands, and by 2003 completed her Ph.D. with Madison University, magna cum laudae.   As a teacher in the St. Croix Virgin Islands educational system, LaRocque served in several roles: department chair, one of the first five master teachers, and an assistant principal; but the concept of educators as leaders designing learning experiences that ensure students fulfill their dreams, influences her educational philosophy.

LaRocque has been the recipient of several education awards in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. She was selected as the Teacher of the Month and Year by her students and was awarded the Tomorrow’s People (Community Service Award in May 1990); was the recipient of the Rotary West Award in February of 2000, and in 2008, was recognized by the Dominica United Cultural Group in St. Croix for outstanding contributions in the field of education.

In March of 2012, Dr. LaRocque released her first book, Reform vs. Dreams, Preventing Student Failure. Deanna Woods, education consultant and trainer observes, “Rosalind LaRocque’s first-hand descriptions of the research-based process for reforming a school is an excellent example for all of us.” However, LaRocque cautions that the book provides a process, a roadmap for education reform, not a “canned program”.

Currently, LaRocque works for the AFT where she spends her time developing research-based modules to assist educators in the classroom around teaching, learning and student engagement. LaRocque is the creator and author of the AFT’s Strategies for Student Success, which has several modules that can be combined to address an overarching title or conducted as stand alones.

Sign up for these Virtual Conference 2021 webinars on student voice:

American Federation of Teachers

The American Federation of Teachers was formed by teachers more than 100 years ago and is now a 1.7 million-member union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and o

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