In 2007, a group of teachers, teacher educators, and education activists got together to put on a conference to share insights and resources, and to inspire one another in teaching for social justice. Since then, Northwest Teaching for Social Justice (NWTSJ) has put on an annual conference, which has been adapted to a virtual setting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NWTSJ’s mission is to offer participants the opportunity to build social justice networks for people to share knowledge and resources. NWTSJ is dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism. We promote grassroots efforts in schools and communities to enhance the learning and well-being of our children, and to build broad democratic movements for social and environmental justice.
More than 1,200 teachers, teacher educators, and interested community members gather each year for the conference. The conference is held in Seattle and Portland in alternate years. The full-day conference has grown to include a keynote speaker, a resource fair with more than 30 non-profit community, social justice, and educational organizations, and more than 90 workshops led by local educators. NWTSJ workshops aim to provide resources that promote equity and racial justice in the classroom. Workshops are selected that express a social justice perspective, are hands-on and practical, and give participants a chance to talk with one another about teaching for social justice and rethinking our school system.
NWTSJ is committed to keeping the conference fee as low as possible. The current registration fees for students and teachers are $10 and $35, respectively, with lunch included. No one is turned away for inability to pay. The conference is entirely organized by volunteers. Much of the food — breakfast, coffee, and snacks — is donated. Most of the organization’s revenue is used to pay for the lunch and other rental costs associated with the conference.
NWTSJ is incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit.
Sarah McFarlane, co-Chair
Sarah Heller McFarlane received a BA from Mount Holyoke College in 1985, and received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Lewis & Clark College in 1988. Sarah has taught social studies in the Shoreline School District since 1990 and has been at Shorewood High School since 1991, where she teaches US History and Civics, including involvement with the Co-Teaching and MLL programs. She is a founding member of Puget Sound Rethinking Schools and the NWTSJ Conference.
Paulette Thompson received a BA from Mount Holyoke College in 1985. After teaching high school English as a Foreign Language as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, she returned to Seattle and received her teaching certification from University of Washington (UW). Paulette taught social studies, humanities, and sometimes French in Seattle Schools for nearly 30 years. She is currently a UW doctoral student in education and holds one of the inaugural Jenkins Fellowships at the UW Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. Paulette works in UW’s College Access Unit advising Upward Bound students in three Seattle high schools.
Heather Barcan, Secretary
Heather Barcan has degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and San Jose State University. She teaches English/ Language Arts at Centennial High School in East Multnomah County, Portland. She has been active in her pursuit of equity and social justice in her teaching, and taught in alternative programs and settings for a number of years before returning to a comprehensive high school setting.
Marian Wagner, Treasurer
Marian Wagner has her Master’s in Teaching from the University of Washington. Marian has taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades for 12 years at Salmon Bay K-8 School in Seattle Public Schools. Marian is the K-8 representative on the board of directors of Seattle Education Association, has served on two contract bargaining teams in Seattle, and has been on Seattle School District’s Professional Growth and Evaluation Committee for seven years.