"You are honestly one out of few teachers I really respect because you have actually made an effort to want to discuss the Ferguson situation, and give your honest opinion about it and not be negative about it. You have really proved to me that there are people other than African Americans who feel strongly about what is going on. You should honestly feel very proud of yourself as not only as a teacher, but as a person. I appreciate what you have done. Thank You."
These are the words a student emailed to Peter Lorinser after a community meeting their class held during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014. The community meeting was an opportunity for students to reflect on their identities and feelings, work that Peter does often.
“I am constantly asked to reflect on my own identity and to understand how my identity plays out in my day-to-day work. As someone who identifies with many of the majority sub-groups that hold much power in America — I find my own identity to be incredibly important. Yet, while my identity is important, I believe that my actions can have a real and lasting impact on those around me. My work as an aspiring social justice ally is something that I am constantly reflective of and I am always striving to be better at.”
To help with his self-reflection, Peter has attended several different workshops that have pushed him "both professionally and personally.” He has participated in LEE's National Organizing Workshop (NOW), National Policy & Advocacy Workshop (NPAW), and a Regional Strategy Team Summit, in addition to local events like house meetings. Peter believes the opportunities he’s had through his LEE membership have opened his eyes to a different part of the education landscape.
“During the 2016-2017 school year, while transitioning from my job at Breakthrough Greater Boston to the Rennie Center, I took a six-month Policy & Advocacy Fellowship with the Boston Charter Alliance, where I supported the development of the Boston Charter School Application. This experience catapulted me into my role as the Improvement Specialist with the Rennie Center as it provided me with the experience and skill set that I needed. This experience set me on a new path in education and has greatly influenced the type of work that I continue today.”
Eventually, Peter partnered with a LEE career coach to help him move into his current role.
“My wife and I decided that we were going to make a big transition to move out of state. One of the first places I went for advice and guidance was LEE. I re-engaged with my coach and, we set a plan in motion. LEE was instrumental in not only making these initial connections that led to fruitful discussions, but also as a support system throughout the anxiety-provoking period of transition. With this support, I was able to make an informed decision in accepting my new role as the Innovation and Learning Facilitator at the Connecticut RISE Network.”
Peter’s new position is a step toward his vision for educational equity, which focuses on so much more than the day-to-day.
“Our work is with people, about people, and for people. We can never forget that in order to make progress, we need to first genuinely listen with the intent to learn, and then — and only then — act. Everyone is impacted by the work that happens in schools, and a lot of my job is working with adults to get on the same page and to organize our efforts to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the communities that we work within. My vision for eliminating education inequality, therefore, is driven by the visions, aspirations, hopes, and dreams of the communities that I work with, and for.”