The I in Liberty stands for Inclusion

Caitlyn Croppi, News Editor

What is inclusion?
That is the question Issaquah School District has challenged its staff with. This year the Issaquah School District has a goal of increasing inclusion, according to assistant principal Erin Armstrong. But this brings many questions like does inclusion mean diversity in cultures? What about disabilities? And how do teachers and staff improve it at their schools?
To answer all of these questions, Crystal Stanley, the special education teacher at Liberty, swooped in.
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard,” Stanley said, “We have made huge strides in our society for supporting people with disabilities, but it’s not enough to invite someone to be somewhere. Instead, we need to find ways to bridge gaps and support one another so there is meaningful involvement for all.”
In an attempt to bridge those gaps, Stanley has created several unified programs, including the filled up class of unified P.E. that she co-teaches with Kelsey Foote.
“Mrs. Foote is an amazing co-teacher and already has so much respect and knowledge about people with disabilities that she was a natural,” Stanley said. “The group as a whole has been very cohesive. The students are responding well to each other and are willing to learn and accept one another.”
Learning to accept one another is huge when it comes to inclusion; one teacher who is focused on that part is Liberty science teacher Kaëla Yuen. At the start of each month, she has sent out a calendar to her fellow staff members and prints out a calendar for her classroom about different holidays and observances. She reports that many of her students and teachers that see it add to it and share their personal connection. Yuen practices improving inclusion by increasing Liberty’s awareness of different celebrations and what people in the community could be celebrating.
“It may be different in the way we celebrate, what we celebrate, and why. But at the end of the day, the celebration is something that every human being does,” Yuen said.
From an overfilled PE class that means more than running a 5k to a calendar that makes our community feel seen, teachers like Stanley and Yuen are ensuring that everyone in the Liberty community knows what it is like to be heard.