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Member Spotlight

Angela Vargas

"Listening to and observing our students to discover more about their identity is our greatest gift to them and ourselves. With the knowledge gathered, educators can take intentional and sophisticated steps in deepening learning, relationships, and community."
Published: June 2023
Headshot of OEA member Angela Vargas

District/College: Beaverton School District
Job Assignment/Position: Early Learning TOSA/Coach
Local Association: BEA
Years of Educator Experience: 15

What are three ways you have actively elevated equity?

  • Elevate and Celebrate Identity Through Child Centered Inquiry - I partner with Early Educators, predominantly Kinder and 1 grade teachers, and administrators to shift and develop practices in child centered playful inquiry. Our partnership begins by playing and learning alongside children while simultaneously reflecting on 5 key questions.
    • What do I know about the children?
    • What are they curious about?
    • What do they do well?
    • What are their families' funds of knowledge?
    • What are their learning curves?

Children’s learning curves inform teaching points. The other questions inform what materials will motivate them to engage in developing their learning curves. With the information gathered we design playful environments for children to research the self, one another and the natural world with curiosity, creativity and in collaboration.

  • Build Bridges and Relationships in the Community with Family Play Workshops - I design and facilitate play workshops for families and educators to build community and learn from one another. We co-construct meaning together about the Habits of Mind through family storytelling. We highlight the Habits of Mind that exist and that are developing through play at home and school. We enjoy play experiences together with accessible materials that can be replicated in classrooms and at home. We culminate our time together by reflecting about the experience, celebrating the collaboration that took place and the Habits of Mind observed.
  • Equity Sparks Facilitator - I am an Equity Sparks Retreat Facilitator. The OEA Sparks Retreat is intended for OEA Members of Color. During the retreats we bond with one another by engaging in equity affinity groups, exploring equity hot topics strengthening racial equity understanding and skills to speak up. We also network and have fun!

What is your equity stance?

As I think of my own experience and the experiences of my children, I know that when we walk out of our house, into the community, stores and schools, in the skin we are in, we are seen as less intelligent, lacking capability, and in need of “help”. When brown children enter into the school system, it is rare that they are given the benefit of the doubt, that the families’ funds of knowledge are honored, that adults are humbled by the genius children bring, such as bilingualism, the ability to navigate multiple cultures, their embodiment of curiosity and resourcefulness and their tenacity to exist in a system working against them.

Listening to and observing our students to discover more about their identity is our greatest gift to them and ourselves. With the knowledge gathered, educators can take intentional and sophisticated steps in deepening learning, relationships, and community.

Our current educational system views children as second-class citizens - mandating their behavior, stifling their interests, and suppressing their identity to realize compliance. When children (and their families) are truly valued and respected, they thrive as leaders. Every child in our classrooms holds an abundance of knowledge, skill, experiences, and stories that can be elevated and heard. It is through the sharing of stories that we become our best selves. School should be about researching, realizing, and expanding our collective gifts. When we create the space to authentically follow children’s interests and nurture connections, we raise advocates for community and social justice.

What is your favorite social justice quote?

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world.
-Paulo Freire

Can you share one equity focused resource or student read that you recommend?

Asset Framing Reflection and Action Plan Tool


Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) is a union committed to the cause of providing the basic right of great public education to every student. OEA represents about 41,000 educators working in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public schools and community colleges. OEA’s membership includes licensed teachers and specialists, classified/education support professionals (ESPs), community college faculty, retired educators, and student members. OEA members also belong to the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA).