#KnowYourPelicans: Semeka Smith-Williams
Director of Diversity and Equity
As the Director of Diversity and Equity, what do you do for Packer?
I work with students, teachers, school employees, administrators, the Board of Trustees, and parent leaders to think about all aspects of who we are — Packer's programming, policies, and stated goals when starting an initiative. I ensure that when we think about community and a healthy learning environment here at Packer, we think about the people in this space just as much as we think about what we're tasked with doing as an educational institution.
Tell us about a specific time you found your job especially rewarding?
Planning Packer in Action Day is a huge undertaking — I have to scaffold and differentiate for 1200 individuals who are here in the building. Much of the focus is on how the topic will be explored in different spaces and that the learning happens with kids and adults in a meaningful way. But I recently received an email from a family with two kids here at Packer. They wrote about how their Middle and Upper Schooler came home after the Packer in Action program and had a conversation about their highlights and enthusiasm around what they experienced. The parents reached out to me to share their appreciation for helping create this moment for their family, how the day's lessons left the building and made it into their home, and that they appreciated that Packer is engaging in this work. The Packer in Action program created an opportunity to open up a dialogue in their family on issues that were important to the parents and the students.
Tell us about a time you learned something from our students.
When I was a classroom teacher, I always dealt with the unexpected — what students would feel was important after a lesson, their takeaways, their questions, what they were motivated to explore further. When engaging in diversity and equity work with community members with a range of ages, experiences, and understandings, I also experience a level of unpredictability and uncertainty. But my motivation is when I watch our student leaders take a topic and bring their ideas to it, and then witness their readiness to explore challenging questions with others in our community, it brings me joy and appreciation for being an educator. That's the magic of being in a school environment. It's both personal and academic at the same time.
What is your favorite space in the building?
The Front Hall. It has a purpose — you move through it to get to other spaces — but people come together and you can witness unintentional and informal relationships. Older students walking together and reflecting on a class they just left; siblings seeing each other, as one is going to the library and one is going out to the Garden, people walking to meetings, classes, workshops, or the Commons. My office is downstairs and can feel removed from the rest of the school, but when I'm in that corridor, I feel seen, and I have the opportunity to see others in their most authentic way.