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#KnowYourPelicans: Semeka Smith-Williams
#KnowYourPelicans: Semeka Smith-Williams
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View photos from the 2014 Fall Fundraiser Festival

Know Your Pelicans - Semeka Smith-Williams


#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.



Previous Pelicans:

Kindergarten Teacher Anne Montero

Upper School Science Teacher Alice Lurain

World Languages Teacher Su-Ling Huang

Upper School Art Teacher Eric Baylin

Preschool Teacher Lynnette Arthur

Middle School English Teacher Todd Johnson

Physical Education Teacher and Coach Rich Domanico

Food Services Member Ann Martinez

Lower School Librarian Chris Rush

Upper School Computer Science Teacher Louis Minsky '09

Upper School History Teacher Monika Johnston

First Grade Teacher Irene Turner

Interim Chair of the Arts Department Ali Boag

Middle School Dean of Student Life and Health Teacher Bessie Oster

Fourth Grade Teacher Tim Jensen

Middle School Math Teacher Ashley Greene

Upper School Choral Director Esther Liu Harris

Upper School English Teacher Eric Weisberg

Facilities Staff Member Luciean Seaforth

Director of Global Outreach, Service, and Sustainability Tené Adero Howard '91

Administrative Assistant for Student Services, College Counseling Lydia Monzio

Lower School Associate Teacher Annabelle Baylin

Middle School Administrative Assistant César Ayala

Instrumental Music Coordinator Paul Riggio

Second Grade Teacher Sara Baumrin

The Development Office

Pre and Lower School Music Teacher Fran Onne-Fong

Physical Education and Health Teacher Dorothy Gurreri

Latin Teacher Tim Flannery

Hallmaster Louis Rios

Security Team Member Nick Griffith

Third Grade Head Teacher Joanna Stern

Middle School Math Teacher Colin Levitt

Upper School Science Teacher Lutz Holzinger

Pre and Lower School Admissions Coordinator Yvonne Menard

Upper School History Teacher George Snook

Dance Teacher Alicia White

Middle School Science Teacher Stephanie Rapciak

Library Department Chair Andrew Parson

Pre and Lower School Assistant Head Joe McCauley

Spanish Teacher Dallas Rico

Permanent Substitute Teacher Rita Pavia

Instrumental Music Teacher Jeremy Udden

Food Services Team Member Shanique Hollis

Middle School History Teacher Vidya Misra

Head of School Dr. Bruce L. Dennis

Dance Teacher Mandy Stallings

Physical Education Department Head Pippa Mayell

Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions & Financial Aid Sheila Bogan