The University of Montevallo’s Office of Partnerships and Outreach hosted local educators and UM faculty, staff and students on Sept. 19 during a professional development workshop aimed at cultivating student empathy and empowering young voices.
The workshop was held in UM’s Montevallo Room, and featured speakers Lisa McNair, a civil rights advocate whose sister, Denise, was a victim of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, and Elizabeth Wood-Weas, the director of speech and debate for Mountain Brook Schools.
In addition to the two speakers, the event also featured a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in the classroom moderated by Dr. Qshequilla Mitchell, director of UM’s TRIO McNair Scholars Program.
“With this professional learning workshop, our hope is that participants not only learned more about cultivating empathy in the spaces around them but also how to empower young voices in the classroom and in interpersonal situations,” said Sarah Hendren, the University’s director of partnerships and outreach. “It’s important to provide these opportunities for collaborative learning with a goal of inspiring growth and understanding in all of us, and the University of Montevallo was happy to play a small part in that effort.”
The speakers and panelists discussed the importance of seeking and celebrating diversity in the classroom, because incorporating different points of view allows all students to feel welcome and it leads to a stronger overall learning environment.
“We were honored to have Ms. McNair and Ms. Wood-Weas speak at this event and are grateful to our panelists for helping facilitate stimulating conversation around the topics of diversity and inclusion,” Hendren said. “Additionally, we hope some of our educators in the room accepted Ms. Wood-Weas’ challenge of creating speech and debate teams in their schools, helping another generation both find and use their voice.”