Faculty Spotlight Q&A: Christine Ortega Gaurkee

We recently sat down with Berkeley’s own Christine Ortega Gaurkee, Upper Division Religious Studies teacher and the school’s Diversity Coordinator, who is serving as a conference co-chair of the 28th annual NAIS People of Color conference and the 22nd Annual Student Diversity Leadership conference being held at the Tampa Convention Center on December 2-5. Berkeley will host a site visit for this prestigious event that has an anticipated attendance of 6,000 people.  We asked her a few questions to find out more about this important event for our city and school and what it means to her to be a part of it all.

Why is it important that Tampa host an event like this?
The state of Florida can at times be a place where many aren’t sure what kind of attitudes to expect. We are a mix of liberals, conservatives and progressive-minded people from all over and are not defined by any one specific regional thought process. For Tampa to be hosting a national conference that aims to help educators understand what it means to teach and learn through the lens of people of color, is to say that Tampa is a place where diverse people can find refuge and their voices can be heard. There will be thousands of visitors in our city checking out who we are and determining where we stand on many national conversations about race, ethnic, sexual orientation, religion, socio- economics and so much more.
What does it mean to you personally to be the co-chair and be so involved?
It has been an amazing opportunity to connect with the cohort of independent schools in the Tampa Bay area and to hear about the work that is being done in their schools to further the conversation regarding inclusion and equity for all. These new relationships that we have developed inspired our community engagement project which helps to create a lasting mark in the communities that host the conference each year. We decided to create the Tampa Bay Diversity Inclusion Network for Equity which will serve as an organization that will maintain open dialogue between our schools, provide support and share professional development in the areas of diversity, equity and justice work. I am so proud to have been the co-chair of this event not just because of the authentic and exciting conference experience, but the work that we will continue to do together to help our students and faculty of color, as well as others that are marginalized in our society, feel welcomed into our schools.
What does it mean for Berkeley to be a site visit location for the conference?
Berkeley will be showcased. Specifically, we are hosting a school visit where a group will come and experience an authentic day in the life of Berkeley. Beginning with the innovations of Lower Division teachers in the makerspace, students learning and singing world music, and an observance of the second grade classroom experience. Then, they will learn about the science partnership between the Middle Division and Dickinson Elementary and observe Global Studies 7th grade classes. Afterwards, visitors will experience a showcase about the Berkeley Academy, our Global Scholars Program and Writing Center initiatives. Finally, there will be a presentation during lunch by the Upper Division Student Diversity Program Team. This school does a lot. We will serve as the inspiration of many during the site visit I am certain, but I hope that it also means that Berkeley will be seen as place that not only puts people into the world who make a positive difference but also welcomes the differences of others from all over the world.


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