2019 Benjamin Banneker Elementary Teacher of the Year

Kindergarten Teacher Ashten Link


Ashten Link
Benjamin Banneker Elementary

How are you working to increase equity in education and opportunity for students in your school?
A live Black History Museum hosted recently by my school allowed all students to dive deeper into significant Black history, culture, events, and people. During the beginning stages of this event, my grade level team and administrators were not sure what role kindergarten students should take in this museum, and what would be appropriate for them to learn during this time. I was determined to provide my students with an important role in this program, and began research on different events that I believed would have a lasting impact. During this research, I discovered excellent picture books and resources regarding the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama, and decided this would be an impactful event for my students to reenact and learn for the museum. The impact this event had on the student was more than I ever could have imagined. My students were able to lead important discussions about race and the Civil Rights Movement that was above and beyond what occurs in most kindergarten classrooms.

What message about public education do you want to share?
The school to prison pipeline has a deep, lasting impact on our community and the families that we serve. This pipeline occurs when students are removed from the classroom, typically due to suspensions and other tactics. Elias (2013) argues, “Hundreds of school districts across the country employ discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates…” The most meaningful way to address the school to prison pipeline is to employ positive behavior strategies and interventions in the classroom. In my classroom, students begin each morning by reflecting on their feelings and emotions that they bring with them into the classroom. They are encouraged to discuss these feelings by selecting a card that matches their emotions that morning. This allows students to unbox how and why these feelings exist, and allocates ideas that they develop to handle these emotions, leading to their own success and away from negative decision making.