Monday, January 18, 2016

Diversi-TEA @ Saint Paul's Episcopal Cathedral

Picture taken by Buthiana J.

Over 150 women of different faiths shared tea and discussed what action they could take to bring peace and balance to our OKC community @ Saint Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. The discussion followed the launch of "Classroom Alive with Mrs. I." a children's program featuring Colleen Iasiello, a children's book author, storyteller and elementary school teacher.  Colleen shared the book Abiyoyo and taught an art activity that engaged tea participants in the beginning of conversations that matter about the value of respecting and embracing diversity.

Diversity Educator and Writer.  Keynote Speaker & Workshop Facilitator

From Carla Hinton's Article 

A highlight of the tea was a Yukon schoolteacher's presentation about her new children's program that will celebrate diversity.
Colleen Iasiello, a teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School, said she will launch an educational series called "Classroom Alive with Ms. I" ( on  YouTube on Feb. 1.
Iasiello said she was a fan of the late Fred Rogers, a children's television personality known as Mr. Rogers. She said her program would be modeled somewhat like Rogers' popular PBS show with storytelling and crafts.
A video snippet of Iasiello's program was shown for tea attendees, showing her reading a children's book called "Abiyoyo." The book, based on a South African folk tale and lullaby, tells the story of a little boy who helps vanquish a mean giant using a magic wand that makes the villain disappear.
Iasiello said just as she decided to pursue her long-held dream of sharing stories and celebrating diversity with children, each woman at the tea should be working to make the world better.
She challenged tea attendees to share with each other one wish for the world and a tangible and immediate way they planned to make a positive difference in their communities.
"There is something you can do every single day, in love, to change the negativity that is out there today," Iasiello said.
She said helping create a better community could be as simple as speaking words of peace.
"Determine that you will no longer be silent, that you will make a commitment to your sisters that you will be a sustained sisterhood to help make this world the place it needs to be," Iasiello said.
Along those lines, the teacher showed the women how to make their own magic wands, called "zoopers," made of bright ribbons and sticks at each table. Soon, attendees were waving their colorful wands as they caught the infectious spirit of the craft inspired by the "Abiyoyo" folktale.
In her benediction, Rabbi Abby Jacobson, spiritual leader of Emanuel Synagogue, encouraged the attendees to continue the exchange of goodwill and fellowship begun at the tea.
"This is an amazing gift to our community — a conversation that will keep going," she said. 
Colleen Iasiello has been teaching in public schools for 17 years. She holds a degree in Elementary Education and endorsements  in Early Childhood Education and middle school Language Arts. Colleen wrote and implemented a pre-school program for a church, had her own pre-school in Japan, and taught American culture in the Japanese schools before moving to Oklahoma.  She is currently teaching Kindergarten at Ranchwood Elementary in Yukon, OK.  She was an instructor for Great Expectations, teaching Methodology classes and How to Teach Diversity to Young Children, at several colleges in OK. She was an instructor at the Edmond’s Art Institute, teaching African Doll Making Classes. She has led several  book studies for both her colleagues,  as well as the parents of her students. She has completed several Leadership Academies: Leadership in Education, Partners in Policymaking, and the State Superintendent’s Master in Education Program. She is certified in Core Knowledge and has completed the School’s Attuned program. She has received several grants over the years  to enhance her effectiveness in the classroom.  She is an active advocate for children with disabilities and inclusive practices. She has provided professional development classes for her school districts to included What Great Teachers Do Differently and How to Reach the Hard to Teach. She has written for the Respect Diversity Foundation and the Oklahoma Disability Council through The Oklahoman Papers in Education Program. She and her students are four-time winners in the Respect Diversity Art and Poetry Contest. In 2008 she was selected one of Oklahoma’s top 3 Early Childhood Educators.
Teaching Diversity to Young Children– Children begin recognizing differences as early as 6 months. This is a developmental stage. Children start placing value on these differences from the adults around them.  Most adults don’t know how to answer those “embarrassing questions” often asked loudly in public! We tell children not to look, not to point, and quickly steer them away. Ultimately we raise another generation who don’t know how to act around a person with a disability. Don’t understand cultural differences. We all tend to fear things we don’t know or understand. There is another way…let me show you how to teach children joyfully about diversity!

From Sherry's Desk
The Diversi-Tea was an amazing experience.  We're still counting, but believe attendance was well over 150.  Joan did an incredible job of organizing us, and Colleen as truly amazing. So many thanks to all of you who participated with your hospitality, food, discussion, etc., etc. - and to those of you who were only able to send prayers.  All of you helped make this happen!  Check out Carmen Clay's blog at
Meanwhile, please bring friends and join us Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for an Evening of Listening"Black Lives Matter", at St. Paul's Cathedral, 127 NW 7th - Sheryl S. Sullivan

From Joan's Desk
Save the Date! UCO Multicultural Institute
March 4 & 5, 2016  Register Now!
Deadline Feb. 19, 2016