Public Education Matters

Ohio's education workforce is made up of people of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations. This diversity is extremely valuable in our public school classrooms. But, too often, educators of color or those in the LGBTQ+ community don't feel welcomed or valued. Hilliard Education Association President Linna Jordan is working to change that.

Show Notes

Supporting Diverse Educators - Season 3, Episode 8
Ohio's education workforce is made up of people of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations. This diversity is extremely valuable in our public school classrooms. But, too often, educators of color or those in the LGBTQ+ community don't feel welcomed or valued. Hilliard Education Association President Linna Jordan is working to change that.
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Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Linna Jordan, Hilliard Education Association President
    • In her 25 years in education, Linna Jordan has taught in urban and suburban districts including two years in Houston ISD as a bilingual elementary teacher. Most of her experience, though, has been as a high school EL and Spanish teacher. During her time at Davidson High School, she served in various leadership and committee positions including several aimed specifically at DEI.
    • This is her second year as president of the Hilliard Education Association. Jordan also has several additional union roles: OEA Board of Directors for Central Unit 8; chair of OEA Hispanic Caucus; chair of OHIO Leadership Council; Central Membership Development chair and member of OEA's EL Cadre among others.

Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on August 23, 2022.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Transcribed by

Intro 0:07
This is education matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and it's 120,000 members. We represent teachers, higher ed faculty members, and education support professionals of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. And their different experiences in life are incredibly valuable in Ohio's public school classrooms. Whether that's by bringing diverse perspectives to our curriculum, or simply allowing students to see themselves in these positions of leadership and expertise. But the sad reality is that diversity is not always embraced and celebrated like it should be. And too often, educators of color or those in the LGBTQ community are left feeling unwelcome unsupported and unvalued. The Hilliard Education Association in central Ohio, wants to change that and Hilliard Education Association president Linna Jordan is expanding that work across the state. She taught English learners for a long time and is an immigrant herself. And as she told us, this is something she takes personally. And she has made it her personal mission to open doors for others who don't feel safe. Let's listen.

Linna Jordan, thank you so much for joining us today. We have a lot to talk about. Let's start on the local level. With your work in Hilliard. What is going on there?

Linna Jordan 1:52
Well, I'm in Hilliard, we decided a few years back that we needed to be doing more to support our diverse staff. And so we sort of brainstorm some ideas. We had gone to NEA leadership and gotten some ideas there. And we decided to start something called the bipoc. Alliance. And for those who are not familiar with the term, what is bipoc bipoc is black indigenous people of color. Got it. So people that identify within that spectrum. And within Hilliard, we have about technically about 45 people that identify as bipoc, which is a very low number, considering our staff count. But we we wanted to start with something. So we start with this bipoc. Alliance. And two of our members, Tiffany Thomas and Kelsey Burkett co chair. And basically what it is, is an emotional support group. So staff can join the zoom, and just talk about their experiences that week asked questions. They have social events to just sort of go and decompress. A lot of our bipoc staff is the only person in the building. So they don't necessarily have someone with similar experiences to to connect with on a daily basis. So this alliance does that for them. We started it before the pandemic and through the pandemic. They just kept meeting through zoom. And this year, they're bringing back more social events. So that's good. Last year, we had a few issues with we had lost seven bipoc staff the year before, out of 45. Yes, wow, that is a huge proportion of them. Yes, it is. And the year started with some problems. And so we dug a little bit deeper and figured out that we don't really have a contract language or policy language or something that really protects our bipoc and LGBTQ staff. So we put together a couple of focus groups, we invited staff that identified as bipoc or LGBTQ off campus, you know, on a separate side, we said what do you need from us? And so we took those suggestions, and we created for this year, our human and civil rights committee, which is now an official part of HBase executive committee, and that's chaired by two of our other staff, Elaine Vander huel and Jen Cooper, and what they're going to focus on is okay if bipoc Alliance is doing The emotional support the personal support, then how can the human and civil rights committee do the professional support? What PD do we need? What language or practices should we put in place? So that staff feel safer and feels more connected. And so that's what they're going to be focusing on this year.

Katie Olmsted 5:24
We think it's worth US adding a little bit of context about what's going on in the Hilliard community right now to to really talk about why this is so important. On one hand, obviously, across Ohio, we have overwhelmingly a white education profession. So it's not that surprising to me that that would be the case in Hilliard, however, Hilliard itself is becoming a much more diverse student body. And to have such a small number, how many people are in your unit? About 1250? Okay, so 45 members out of 1200 50 members who are identifying as bipoc individuals, that is a surprising number to me did that, does that surprise you about that community? Um,

Linna Jordan 6:16
it doesn't surprise me. And I think the main reason is that suburbs have problems attracting bipoc educators, right. Usually, when you go to job fairs, it's, you know, to senior, I don't want to say, white guys, but that's kind of what it is, right? The usually the HR personnel that goes are two older gentleman, or maybe an older woman that goes with them. And if you don't see yourself at the table, then what's to attract you. And if you don't know anything about that suburb, or you don't know if there's going to be not just even professional resources, but personal resources, what's in the community, for you? And so I know that one thing Hilliard, and I'm sure other suburban locals have been looking at is, what do we need to do as a community to make sure those pieces are in place so that we can attract more educators here of color? Because you're right, our student numbers are increasing dramatically, I would say, between our ELL population and our African American population, it's probably 20 25% of the student population. And that's not being represented in the staff. Right.

Katie Olmsted 7:53
And then on top of that, I know last year was a very contentious school board election. And it really, I think, exposed and exacerbated some divides in your community about embracing that beautiful diversity. Yeah. What can you tell me about that?

Linna Jordan 8:13
I feel like Hilliard as a whole was it as a school district was on its way to implementing some things to changing some things. They had made ELL students a primary focus of their commitment plan. They had created a Director of Diversity, Equity and instruction, they, there were pieces that were put in place, but then this election happened, right. And there was a lot of pushback, as we've seen across the country of CRT and of, you know, really parsing through the curriculum and looking, what books do you have in the library that are making kids feel bad? Why are you talking about this? And so there was a huge pushback from the community. And I don't want to say the whole community, but certain pieces of the community that led to that. And so we have now a new board that is struggling with say that is struggling with what's best for all the students and staff in Hilliard and the concerns that this group has. And and so I feel like diversity, because has become the hot button issue. And it's everything we talk about now board meetings. So it's a struggle.

Katie Olmsted 9:44
So does that make your work inside your local with the bipoc. Alliance and with that committee, that much more important because that is something you can work on.

Linna Jordan 9:56
Right? Right. And I think that's why Are we see now like, we would like to think that everything the district has planned and says they will follow through on will happen. But in the meantime, we have staff, they're scared. In the meantime, we have staff that are cutting curriculum, or not sure if they should stay in Hilliard. And so we have to do what we can to make them feel safe, but also to protect them as much as we can and say, Okay, this is how you defend what you're teaching. This is how you explain what your club is doing this is in, because we want to keep them, right. We want them to stay here we see the benefit of having them be part of us. So we do what we can

Katie Olmsted 10:50
hearing from members of that bipoc. Alliance. How have they felt more welcome, because of that experience?

Linna Jordan 11:01
I think that they know that there's a welcoming presence. They know that there's somebody they can go talk to, even if they're feeling pushed back in other places. I think also creating a bipoc. Alliance has and this committee, this new HR committee, has led the rest of our membership, really understand that it's a problem. We focus a lot as teachers, we focus a lot on the students, and the diversity with them right and making them feel safe. But I don't know that everybody was realizing how much it was impacting the staff. Right?

Katie Olmsted 11:42
Let's, let's really just shout it to the world. And how does this impact staff?

Linna Jordan 11:48
Um, you're scared. You're scared. I mean, you know, right now, we're dealing with issues of pronouns, and whether to use pronouns or not. And so if you're an LGBTQ staff member, and you see that, how do you feel safe coming to work? How do you see? How do you feel like you're being respected as a professional. And so for the rest of the staff to see, to start to understand what they experience on a daily basis. We've had more allies come forward, more people come forward and say, I know you're the only person of color in our building coming lunch with us, come hang out, I'm a person you can talk to. And so seeing not just the impact that the bipoc, Alliance had on bipoc, staff feeling a bit safer, but also everybody else saying we have to play our role in this as well.

Katie Olmsted 12:54
So and that's the thing about all of this manufactured controversy about CRT about, about people getting up in arms about the pronouns and all of this nonsense, is that it is an extremely vocal minority. Yes, you know, Ohio driving all of this. I keep coming back to it. But the Children's Defense Fund, just had that big study that came out that said 90% Plus, of Ohio parents trust their children's teachers to teach them age appropriate curriculum. They trust their teachers to be good role models. It is such a small percentage of Ohioans, who were making such a massive, over reaction to a not real controversy, making educators and making students feel unsafe. Yeah, it's so important to have the Allies now come up and be vocal as well.

Linna Jordan 13:52
Right. I think, to go along with what you just said about, you know, the results that we've seen about overall. Last spring, a private group had done a community survey for the district. And they presented at one of the board meetings, and what they found was the same thing. The majority of our parents are happy with their education, they love their teacher. They're glad that their student is in that building and has the opportunities they have. So even on a local level, we're hearing that but they're not the ones we hear every day. And so remembering that those loud ones, that loud minority, that they don't represent everybody, they just don't. So

Katie Olmsted 14:41
and how very unfortunate that even the word diversity, and even the word equity and even the word inclusion is now one of those just fire points in in many communities from that very vocal minority. Yeah, how do you on a person same level, scan strong in the face of that. Um,

Linna Jordan 15:05
it's hard. Because I was in El teacher for 20 years before I became president. And my daily experience was with students that this group doesn't want to interact with, doesn't want to be part of our community. And these parents that don't always have the language or the political skills to stand up for their kids. And so as a teacher, it's sort of riles me up and makes me want to protect them more. And I And now that I'm out of the classroom, I do that with staff, right. So now I've got to protect I feel riled up to protect them more. I think that as I identify as bipoc, also, I was born in Mexico came here as a child, so immigrant myself, and to, it's hard not to take it personally, when you hear things. But remembering that in the position I'm in right now, I can take it personally, and keep it with me and, you know, find support to let it out. But that I have to be the one that can open the doors, and be the spokesperson for those that don't feel safe. So then they can walk through and share their stories and their experiences.

Katie Olmsted 16:30
And let's take that to the state level. You're working with OEA on this issue. What are you What are you doing?

Linna Jordan 16:37
Um, a few things. First, I'm the chair of the OEA Hispanic Caucus. So I'm working with that group to I guess, also be a support for Hispanic teachers across the state, what resources are out there? What issues should we be thinking about legislatively? So there's that piece, I'm also part of a new training cadre minority and leadership training cadre that oh, it just started this summer. And there are a group of I believe that about 15 of us that ova is going to use to send out to different parts of the state to do more training. So there's more capacity for that out ova. Because there's a lot of demand for the training, there's a lot of demand for understanding and ova recognize that they had to build their capacity and add more right to be able to get that out there. So I appreciate that tremendously. I was I'm also part since I'm on the OEA board. I'm also part of the strategic priorities committee. And so adding the fourth priority that focuses always work on diversity on inclusion of students have staff of everybody. And looking really not just at the priority, but how are we measuring it? And are we putting our money where our mouth is? So how does it align with his budget. And so those are all pieces that I've seen as major improvements in O 's work in the past few years, and I can't wait to see where we go next with it.

Katie Olmsted 18:29
That brings me to another point. I've spent a lot of this conversation talking about how hard things are and how bad things are. And it honestly breaks my heart to think about the educators who are feeling this way in Hilliard and across the state. I want to talk about the future. What does the future look like is? Is it gonna get better from here do you think? I hope so. It has to right? It has to now we jinxed it. No, I'm on all the wood.

Linna Jordan 19:03
I think that as long as locals or districts are at the state level, as long as we keep pushing that it's important to us, and teachers are able and not just teachers ESPs everybody that interacts with our students, and that, you know, our colleagues working together to this, that this is an important part of our daily lives. And as long as they feel empowered, I'm hoping that things will improve from that front. And with the community that doesn't agree with us. I'm I'm hoping that our results speak for themselves. Right? And that they'll see that diversity is not a bad word. Here all the great things that having a diverse community can bring to you right to can bring to your own children's experiences can bring to the economic forces of the community. So I'm hoping for that big because often people that have issues with diversity, haven't had experience with diversity. And so I'm hoping that as people that are upset start to have more and more experience with different kinds of people different kinds of beliefs, that they'll realize that we're just all the same. We just want what's best for our students.

Katie Olmsted 20:24
Jordan, thank you so, so much for sharing your perspective. I'm feeling hopeful, hoping along with you.

Linna Jordan 20:32
I'm glad. Thank you for having me on.

Katie Olmsted 20:37
We want to hear from you on education matters, too. Send me an email at to share your ideas for future episodes. And make sure you subscribe to education matters wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every Thursday morning. Until next time, stay well.