EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Teaching beyond the basics, helping our future leaders find themselves.

“I like to talk a lot about identity and who they are as a person. So we spend a lot of time thinking about who we are what’s important to us, what we like what we dislike,” said Ms. Tracey Lafayette. She’s a third-grade teacher at Robert J. O’Brien STEM Academy in East Hartford.

She helps students become confident in who they are and who they are becoming.

“I want my kids to be able to walk up to somebody and explain who they are and say ‘I am this, I am that,’ and talk positively about themselves.”  

Identity and inclusion play a huge role in Ms. Lafayette’s classroom.

“Especially being in a school like mine where my students are predominately Hispanic or Black, it’s really important that we are having these conversations with each other in a way that’s not just centered around ‘these are the struggles that people who look like of us had,’ but to have these positive conversations about achievements and accomplishments.”

She’s proud to be an example of that.

“As a Black woman, I really have the opportunity to impact kids who look like me to see themselves in the classroom. But also for kids who don’t to have representation of different people standing in front of them.”

Ms. Lafayette puts those strong conversations into action.

“I feel like sometimes diversity and equity and inclusion and all that stuff turn into buzzwords, especially in education. But it’s really important to be mindful and really intentional of what it looks like in the classroom in order for it to be a more authentic experience for students instead of something we do that’s who we are.”