• Leonard Webb

Ethnic Gem: Rayna Dunham

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

School: Hartford Public High School

Hartford, Connecticut

By Samantha Williams, Managing Editor / Sr. Contributing Writer

When you think about your most memorable teacher, who comes to mind? For Rayna Dunham, it would be her ninth-grade Spanish teacher, Ms. Jimenez-Beltran. After Rayna’s mother abandoned her and her father, Rayna found the love, attention, and sisterhood she was missing through Ms. Jimenez-Beltran.

She demonstrated a responsive approach to educating the whole child, and this teaching style embodied culturally responsive pedagogy, embraced social emotional learning, and created social justice change agents. This experience confirmed Rayna’s decision to become a teacher, and become a “Ms. Jimenez-Beltran” to her students by understanding that teaching is more than just pedagogy.

Originally from Ledyard, CT, Rayna teaches 10th grade Biology and 11th and 12th grade advanced placement (AP) Biology in the north end of Harford, where she fully embraces her afro, her blackness, and she encourages my students to do the same.

Rayna understands the importance of students having visibility and access to a Black female STEM educator. She has witnessed the oppressive nature of the current educational system – the disproportionate discipline practices, the achievement gap, and lack of quality educators. All of which has reinforced the value of teacher advocacy and the need to address implicit biases in pre-service teaching programs.

Rayna’s father, a Black male English teacher, also inspires Rayna to continue advocating for her students. Did you know Black male teachers only account for 2% of all teachers? In this very rare position, Rayna’s father advocated for his students, including tutoring at a library to ensure students had an encounter with an educated Black male teacher.

In addition to pursuing an EdD, doctoral cohort through Central Connecticut State University, Rayna also volunteers as a science teacher at the Legacy Foundation of Hartford, a nonprofit organization focused on closing the achievement gap in the north end of Hartford. Rayna has received an award for the Google Black History Month Pay it Forward Challenge, was awarded the Lindgren Family Scholarship for educational leadership, and is an active member of the Greater New England Alliance of Black School Educators.

Rayna Dunham is a true student advocate, and we are proud to feature her as an

Ethnic GEM!

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