In 2021, twenty educators from Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Illinois, formed a Teaching for Black Lives study group to “create a consistent space for a diverse group of educators [to] come together to learn more about the Black experience and how to create a more supportive environment that uplifts and celebrates Black children and their place in school.” The group met twice a month to discuss readings from the book.
Jennifer Rowe, Director of Equity and Belonging at Lyons Township (LT) and study group coordinator, had already read Teaching for Black Lives when she decided to apply to form the group. She said:
I so enjoyed reading this book on my own, and it is a resource that I keep on my desk. I am able to reference it all of the time in my work. I am most excited about the opportunity to share this resource with other educators and to be able to have them come together to discuss how we are addressing the specific needs of Black children. It has so many resources that will connect to instructional practices and focus on creating a sense of belonging.
Educators continued their learning in the 2022–2023 school year through the LT Reads Program, a student and staff book club that read the young reader’s editions of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States and The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.
In 2023 in celebration of Black History Month, they purchased additional copies of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks for anyone to pick up for free. During lunch periods, students and staff had the option to attend a book discussion and screening of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, organized by the LT Reads Program and Student Equity and Belonging Committee respectively. The book club event included a virtual visit with Brandy Colbert, the award-winning young adult author who adapted the young reader’s edition. Rowe said:
Brandy shared a lot about her development as a writer and how she started in elementary school. It was powerful to hear how she stopped drawing and transitioned to writing about Black characters. She had to find Black history on her own as it was not present in school.
The students appreciated Brandy sharing her story and journey as a writer. The students are always interested in what we are not teaching them in their classes!
In March, LT Reads invited educators for a virtual Author Hour with Colbert. To wrap up the month, many teachers received a streaming link from the Zinn Education Project to show the film in their classrooms. Rowe reported:
With the teachers, we focused on the importance of unlearning what we were taught surrounding United States history. We have to be active in relearning. We all learned so much by reading, and we have been finding ways to transform the way we are talking about Rosa Parks. It was powerful to hear Brandy speak to us as educators and highlighted the importance of sharing stories about people of color, teaching Black history, and also not sitting in the pain. She encouraged us all to dig into the history and all the ways that people were actively working to challenge the limitations.