June 5, 2017

IPS Teacher Of The Year Says Multicultural Literacy Is Key To Learning, Connecting With Students

Kathleen Rauth sits during the '2018 Teacher of the Year" celebration for her at Center for Inquiry School 27. - Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media

Kathleen Rauth sits during the '2018 Teacher of the Year" celebration for her at Center for Inquiry School 27.

Eric Weddle/WFYI Public Media

Kathleen Rauth found out she was the Indianapolis Public Schools teacher of the year Monday when IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and a bunch of media rambled into the Center for Inquiry School 27’s media center.

“Thank you” and “wow” was pretty much all she could say.

From there Rauth was led past dozens of cheering students lining the hallways, as she walked to the gymnasium where the entire school and her family were waiting.

Rauth, an educator for 30 years, has been with IPS for the past three years. She’s made multicultural literacy and diversity the focus of her work. She is the media specialist at School 27 and Center for Inquiry School 2 and previously worked at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois.

“I have done a lot of work on finding African American cultural narratives that don’t reflect poverty but also reflect strong nuclear families in all traditions,” she says. “Working to find Hispanic narratives that are not just about sneaking across the border.”

Nine years ago she became a librarian and began to see the lack of children's literature and minority historical narratives available to students.

As a self-described woman from “upper-middle-class white Suburban Ohio,” Rauth says she understands her experiences don’t mirror those of her students. At IPS, nearly 77 percent of the educators are white and 80 percent of students are black, Hispanic or other minority.

Rauth says throughout her careers, she's learned to ask questions and listen to students about their experiences and lives.

"There is a lot of fear around what you don't know," she says about how other educators can feel. "I think I can be a model for (changing that feeling) and be that kind of resource to the whole district."

Rauth spends two-to-three hours a day searching out hard to find independent and small-publisher books that will resonate with the students.

Getting kids these books, she says, makes a difference in students who don't see themsleves represented in books. A recent grant allowed Rauth to purchase books that refelected on various LGBTQ issues and themes.

“When I bought the LGBTQ titles, I had one little girl running up to me and say, ‘There are two daddies in this book. I have two daddies,’ And I said, ‘I know you do.’ And she said, ‘This is so cool.’”

Center for Inquiry 27 Principal Brandi Herbert says the media center is called The Hub because “Ms. Rauth and her written/taught curriculum are the central foundations of all classroom and lifelong learning.”

Rauth is part of the “IPS diversity cadre” that aims to expand the culturally diverse reading materials available at district schools.

Patricia Payne, IPS Office of Racial Equity Director, says Rauth can help educators understand the cross-sections of media, racial equity, diversity, inclusion and community advocacy.

Rauth will now be considered for Indiana Teacher of the Year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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