Educator Liz Kleinrock, UCC’s Connor Chair for 2022–24, brought ideas and inspiration about equity and belonging.
The Connor Chair — supported by the Connor Family for more than 20 years — allows UCC to support school-wide faculty professional development based on the school’s goals and current priorities. It’s an opportunity to engage with thought leaders over the course of a year or two, both in person and virtually, and to share their ideas with faculty, staff and the broader community.
Kleinrock, an educator based in the United States, is also a consultant and author who specializes in belonging and inquiry-based learning, areas of focus which dovetail nicely with the College’s focus on transformational learning, wellbeing and pluralism.
“Working with Liz will ensure that teachers feel like they have the skills to embed equity into the curriculum and to have difficult conversations about it with faculty and parents,” says Dr. Julia Kinnear, UCC’s academic dean. “With our focus on pluralism, we’re working to enhance the curriculum and develop strategies to support belonging. We want students to be understanding of differences and everyone to see themselves in our curriculum and materials.”
Dr. Kinnear continues, “Although this was Liz’s first in-person visit, she has been engaged with faculty over the course of the year. Virtually, she has been working shoulder-to-shoulder with small groups of teachers on curriculum projects, enhancing learning for students. She has provided coaching and feedback on units of study, and she met online with the Prep book club that was reading her book, Start Here Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community, which is filled with practical strategies teachers can use to foster belonging.”
While on campus, Kleinrock ran a session for learning support staff and held an introductory session for all Prep teachers that focused on ways to approach equity in the classroom. She will return to campus in August for an extension of that work and will have the opportunity to meet with the entire faculty.
The mandate of the Connor Chair includes sharing knowledge with the community. UCC plans to involve other schools in a session with Kleinrock and is considering a session with parents about critical conversations.
Kathryn O’Brien, a Year 3 teacher, was delighted to meet Kleinrock in person after discovering her work in 2021.
“I was impressed and inspired by her conversations around pluralism in primary classrooms,” O’Brien says. “Jump forward to 2023, and I've had the honour to be part of a few shoulder-to-shoulder meetings with Liz. She has helped work to refine our Year 3 inquiry into identity. She has been an amazing guide who offers everyone an entry point into the critical work of anti-bias, anti-racism education. With honesty, compassion and an encyclopedic knowledge of available resources, her feedback has been invaluable to my learning as a teacher.”
Kleinrock expressed her own pleasure at working with UCC. “I'm thrilled to be partnering with the faculty of Upper Canada College, and honored to serve as the Connor Chair,” she says. “Working with the teachers virtually and in person, I've seen such enthusiasm and curiosity about making anti-bias, equity, and inclusion a meaningful part of both curriculum and school culture. I'm looking forward to building on the foundations of this work and supporting UCC in the coming year.”
Dr. Kinnear adds, “I’ve had a number of teachers reach out to say how excited and thankful they are for the opportunity to work with Liz. I want to express the school’s gratitude to the Connors for supporting teachers in the school.”