To Our Students,
We are both members of the Class of 1998. You could do the math yourselves, or we will just tell you that we are both 35 years old. And when we began teaching at Foster, each of us respectively, was the youngest member on staff. How much we have learned since that time, and how much more remains to be discovered! Foster is the kind of place that lends itself to reflection on who we are and what brings us together. We both come from different places, different families, different cultures and religions, but we have so much in common, too, similarities that are the core of who we are individually and together. We love being teachers, we love teaching and learning, we love Foster High School, and we love our students.
In the wake of recent tragedies, there are things we feel compelled to tell you, our students, our Foster family. In an effort to promote open dialogue and social discourse, naming those tragedies is important – Syria, Baghdad, Cairo, Beirut, Paris, San Bernardino, and the subsequent tidal wave of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments washing through media and politics, in small towns and big cities. These hateful attitudes and insinuations are dangerous rhetoric that we do not support in any way, and that we vehemently reject.
We want you to know that who you are is important. Your identity matters to you, and it matters to us because it is part of who you are. The experiences that you have lived, the lens through which you view the world, the voice you bring to our community – these are all vital parts of the chapter that you bring to our collective story. Know this: whoever you are, whatever your story – you are and always will be important to us and to Foster. And you will ALWAYS be welcome in our classrooms, and will always be able to come to us for any concerns.
Each of you brings to Foster High School a unique perspective that enhances the learning environment for your peers, and for us as your teachers. Your place in our classrooms does not depend on whether you were born in the U.S. or abroad; it does not depend on the corner of the world from which you came. It does not depend on which faith you practice (or do not), how you came to Tukwila, whom you choose to love, whether or not you have papers, whether you are a refugee or an immigrant or a TukTown native. It does matter to us that you are a part of Foster.
As your teachers, we are committed to creating safe and welcoming spaces for all students at Foster High School. Furthermore, we are committed to facilitating conversation where you can learn from one another, without adult interference, about what you think and why you think it. This discourse is crucial in a democratic society, and it is crucial to your civic development as a member of this nation.
In 1998, when we graduated from high school, we could have never predicted times such as these. We never imagined mass shootings, suicide missions, violent barriers blocking safe passage for those most in need, nationwide demands to end pervasive racial injustice, and such widespread fear. However, we also could have never predicted how lucky we would be to find and make a home at a school like Foster. Our journeys here as teachers have been some of the richest experiences of our lives, because of YOU, the young people we have met and taught. You have challenged us, taught us, and made us better educators. You have opened our eyes and hearts to the intricacies of the larger world, and made us think – HARD – about our responsibilities to our global community. In each of you we see hope and promise for a better future. We watch the growth and blossoming of more intelligent, critical, compassionate, enlightened leaders for our communities and our country, intellectual fighters capable of effecting positive change.
But hope for better is not enough.
We not only challenge, but expect you to ask questions, to deconstruct and contest the status quo, and to stand up for what is right. History tells us over and over that those who do not engage as citizens become complacent; inaction and lack of involvement too often lead to prejudice, scapegoating, oppression, fear, intolerance, and injustice. You cannot allow this to occur. You deserve better. We all deserve better.
You have the intelligence and power to determine your course of action as the future unfolds. Inform yourself, speak your truth, listen to others, and remain dedicated to peaceful solutions. We eagerly anticipate your leadership to teach others as much as you have taught us.
Emily DeJulio and Andrea Gamboa
Signed in solidarity by,
Pedro Arellano Camarena
Silvia Dicus Mora
Claudia Van Cleemput
Alisha Van Lier