Three teachers awarded the Wolfburg Fellowship for Social Justice in Education

The fellows will pursue professional learning on diversity and inclusion, participate in JPEF’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, and lead activities with their students.

7/15/2021

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 15, 2021 — Three public school teachers in Duval County have been selected as the 2021 winners of the Wolfburg Fellowship for Social Justice in Education.

April McRae and Crystal Jefferson of Jacksonville Heights Elementary and Steven Ingram of Stanton College Preparatory High School will pursue professional learning on diversity and inclusion, participate in JPEF’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, and lead activities with their students.

Jake and Brian Wolfburg, the CEO of VyStar Credit Union, established the Fellowship at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund in 2020 to advance the work of public school teachers committed to social justice in Duval County. In addition, this year, the Fellowship expanded to include an additional awardee thanks to a generous gift from Liz and Ken Babby, the owner of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. JPEF and the Fellowship’s founders surprised the winners on a Zoom call yesterday.

“The pursuit of that noble, yet too often elusive, promise of full and equal participation in society is personal to our family, as it is to millions more,” said Jake and Brian Wolfburg. "Every year educators make a real and lasting difference in the lives of their students that ripples through the community. In that spirit, we surely must recognize and honor both the progress realized by those whose shoulders we stand on today and the meaningful advances yet to be made toward justice and equality for all people. We are privileged to recognize and invest in these three exceptional teachers committed to deepening knowledge around justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion through thoughtful exploration and respectful dialogue.”

“We are thrilled that this year's Fellowship award will allow three amazing teachers to lead creative and thoughtful initiatives dedicated to social justice," said Liz and Ken Babby. "The winners will be bringing students together to explore important topics and have open dialogue, all of which will facilitate understanding, acceptance and inclusion in the classroom and beyond. The winners' efforts will have a positive impact not only on their students, but the entire community, for years to come.”

The Fellowship helps teachers and their students deepen their knowledge around issues relating to social justice, diversity, and inclusion and to lead a hands-on project with their students . The Wolfburg Fellowship provides up to $7,000 total value to the teacher and the teacher’s students, to include $3,000 for the Fellow’s participation in a quality professional learning experience in social justice, $2,000 for the Fellow’s school-based action research project, $1,500 for the Fellow’s participation in JPEF’s professional learning opportunities, and $500 for students to lead change alongside the Fellow, as age-appropriate. Last year’s inaugural fellow, Abby Solano, created a photography project for her students at West Riverside to explore identity and representation in the media.

McRae and Jefferson will collaborate on their learning and student activities at Jacksonville Heights Elementary, a Title I school on Jacksonville’s Westside. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund supports Jacksonville Heights Elementary School’s principal, Andrea Williams-Scott, as the Brian J. Davis Fellow for School Climate & Culture. McRae and Jefferson wrote in their application about wanting to engage students in conversations about cultural differences, which enrich the school environment for all students.

“I approach diversity and inclusion as a salad bowl,” wrote McRae, who was recognized as her school’s Teacher of the Year in 2020-2021. “The salad bowl would not be much of a masterpiece or even delicious if every component was the same. Likewise, with people, everyone is different. We offer different talents, gifts, and point of views. Each of us has something to contribute to our communities.”

Ingram, who teaches at Stanton College Preparatory High School near downtown Jacksonville, aims to engage his students in diversity, inclusion, and social justice learning beyond academics.

“At my high school, students are surrounded by diversity, but they need to work on inclusion,” Ingram said. “All too often the students are focused on diversity and inclusion as the potential subject matter for a test, for an essay. Students pass other students in the hallway who come from widely disperse points on the globe but they spend little time actually learning about or listening to the voices of diversity.”

Ingram’s project through the Fellowship will help change that. With the support of the Fellowship, he will develop a social justice course to lead learning with high school students and younger students in nearby schools, allowing high school students to engage in mentoring, coaching, and building relationships with students from different backgrounds. 

“The work of these fellows speaks to the true mission of public education – to prepare our students as critical thinkers and future leaders of our communities,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “Understanding differences is a key part of that. JPEF is proud to offer this outstanding opportunity to teachers, and we are so grateful to the Wolfburgs and the Babbys for making it possible.”

The Wolfburgs welcome the support of like-minded individuals and organizations to support the Fund through gifts to the endowed fund or in direct support to the Fellowship. Anyone interested in supporting this work is welcome to contact Jen Silva at jen@jaxpef.org. 

Contact Stephanie Garry Garfunkel, Director of Marketing & Communications, at (352) 359-2393 or stephanie@jaxpef.org for more information. 

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About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent think-and-do tank that believes in the potential of all students. We work tirelessly to close the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color. We convene educators, school system leaders and the community to pilot and help scale evidence-based solutions that advance school quality in Duval County. For more information: www.jaxpef.org.

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87%

of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2018-2019.