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RJEM: Racial Justice in Early Math Education

Racial Justice in Early Math Education (RJEM), a collaboration between Erikson Institute and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), addresses issues of systemic racial injustices in the math education of young learners. RJEM’s working group established a Call to Action to combat the disparities within the educational system, including (but not limited to) the necessary acknowledgement of white supremacy and anti-blackness within the structure, policies, and practices of school systems across the country.

In December of 2022, the Heising-Simons Foundation awarded RJEM a grant of $900,000 which helped to establish the RJEM Teaching Fellowship. In May of 2023, RJEM announced a small, diverse group of teachers from across the country as the 2023-2024 cohort. Last week, Erikson welcomed this new cohort with an interactive orientation where fellows were able to bond with each other and learn more about RJEM and the details of the fellowship. The fellowship runs until May of 2024.

Meet the cohort below.

Citlali Arroyo – Chicago, IL

Citlali is from the north side of Chicago and has a M.Ed. from Boston College (2020), a BS in Sociology from Northeastern Illinois University (2016) and is a product of Chicago Public Schools (2010). Citlali teaches dual language kindergarten and uses this platform to teach grassroots organizing among her peers and school community. Citlali is very excited to start working with RJEM and hopes to continue this pursuit of social justice in early childhood education.

Avonshae Rounds-Kelly – Baltimore, Maryland

Avonshae Rounds-Kelly is a 6th year Kindergarten in Baltimore County. Avonshae graduated from Stevenson University with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and received a M.A. in Teaching, Leadership, and Cultural Competency from the University of Iowa. In addition to teaching kindergarten, Avonshae is an adjunct professor at Stevenson University where she collaborates with teacher candidates to investigate their identities and biases to create equitable classrooms and instruction. Avonshae is excited to learn everything she can from the fellowship!

Sara Orphanides – Durham, North Carolina

Sara Orphanides has more than 20 years of experience teaching and learning alongside young children. Sara graduated from Bank Street College of Education with an M.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Currently, she is teaching five- and six-year-olds at Carolina Friends School in Durham, North Carolina.

Wendolyne Sánchez – Chicago, Illinois

Wendolyne Shanchez loves being a Dual language kindergarten teacher and learning about her city, especially going out to eat in different Chicago neighborhoods. Wendolyne is excited about taking her bike out this summer and taking long walks with her family.

Ashley Shaffner

Ashley Shaffner currently lives and works in Cincinnati Public Schools, where she has taught Kindergarten at Frederick Douglass Elementary for the last five years. Ashley graduated from Miami University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and again in 2022 with a master’s degree in Language and Literacy. In the fall, she is starting a new role as an adjunct faculty member at Miami University teaching a math content course. Throughout her professional and educational career, Ashley has developed a passion for critical literacy and is eager to strengthen her understanding of mathematics.

Sung Yoon – Woodinville, WA

Sung (he/him/his) is super excited to join the RJEM Math Fellowship as a Kindergarten teacher in Woodinville, Washington! Sung has been teaching Kindergarten for four years now and loves every moment. As a Korean American, immigrant, living in the United States since third grade, he has witnessed how the education system is not always fair to students of color, immigrants, and students with neurodiverse needs. Sung is excited to learn how we can make math more accessible and equitable to all students. When he is not a teacher, sung loves to go camping, sailing, and cooking!

RJEM Cohort 2023

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