Natalie Taylor has supported changes in Claremont USD that make students who may feel marginalized or excluded feel valued and seen.
Taylor committed to valuing every student
October 30, 2023
Name: Natalie Taylor, Ed.D. Award: Valuing Diversity Award Title: Director of Intervention and English Learner Programs, Claremont Unified School District
When student leaders in Claremont USD wanted to change their homecoming celebration to be more gender inclusive last year, their principal knew just where to send them: Natalie Taylor, the district’s director of Intervention and English Learner Programs.
“In their role as ASB members, that really empowered them to say, all right, the system isn’t working,” Taylor said. “I met with them and we really just brainstormed — in a perfect world, what would this look like?”
The students wanted to honor tradition, yet they also wanted everyone to feel included. They decided to change homecoming royalty to be chosen from a top 10 list of seniors, regardless of gender identity.
Taylor acknowledged that there were rumblings — what if two boys were the top vote-getters? But as the school gets ready to celebrate its second gender-inclusive homecoming this year, Taylor’s son, who also goes to the school, reports that the new rules are now the norm: “That’s just the way homecoming is now,” he said.
Taylor has worked hard to support these small changes that mean a world of difference for student groups who may feel marginalized or excluded. It’s why she is receiving ACSA’s 2023 Valuing Diversity Award.
Taylor has taught and led schools in Claremont since 2004, and assumed her current position in 2017.
In 2020, she completed her dissertation on “Recognizing Whiteness” and has since presented on the topic several times at ACSA and other professional learning events.
“The ultimate question was how do white administrators show up each day and build our own racial identity and heighten our own racial consciousness, so that we know what we bring to the table and can ultimately better serve the students in our seats,” Taylor said.
As a director of ELL programs, Taylor has worked to make sure these students receive the accolades they deserve. She has changed the process of English Language Learner reclassification into a celebration of multiculturalism.
“Reclassification sounds so sterile, right? We really just wanted to celebrate kids,” she said. The district rented out a music hall and families heard from a speaker — a college professor who was once an ELL student — who spoke about embracing one’s home language.
“Think about how hard our students work to acquire the English language,” she said. “You might not be a student who is also passing IB tests and being honored at Senior Awards nights and all of these things, but when you have a special day too, that says we honor the work that you have put in.”
When she was an elementary principal, Taylor provided support to a kindergartner who was a refugee from Syria. It led her to connect with Claremont Canopy Refugee Resettlement Organization, a nonprofit that welcomes displaced families and helps them rebuild their lives. Taylor now sits on its governing board. She is committed to doing whatever it takes to support refugee families in her community — including helping them find jobs, doing personal check-ins and working with students to rebuild transcripts from their home country.
Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Taylor worked with the board and superintendent to establish a District Advisory Council on Racial Equity. While the council accomplished a great deal of foundational work, Taylor knew something was missing.
“It became really apparent that we didn’t have the voices on that council that we needed to have — that the people who were impacted by racialized policies were not in the room to share their experience of what that meant for them,” Taylor said. “And so we said, we gotta start over.”
Taylor now leads the Equity Advisory Council, a standing advisory group created to learn and understand the experiences and needs of historically marginalized students and families in CUSD. Made up of staff, community members representing each site and students who have lived experiences with racism, the group has been active in many ways, such as adopting an equity statement and encouraging the hiring of an equity-minded HR director who can work to increase diversity in the teaching staff.
Taylor oversees MTSS and leads teams of educators and community members to address closing achievement gaps in Claremont with effective systems and research-based strategies. She also ensures that each school has a PBIS team that is capable of analyzing their data for racial inequities and empowered to make changes to correct them.
Leading for equity is in Taylor’s nature: “I’ve always believed that an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” she said.
As she moved from teacher to district director, her equity work impacted even more students. But being the face of equity in the newspaper and at board meetings comes with new challenges. Last year, Taylor found nails in her tires three times in the span of a month.
“It’s tiring sometimes, but it’s so desperately important,” she said of equity work. “I could never look at my own kids and say, ‘There are gonna be adults that give up on you.’ And so, I could never be that adult that gives up on a kid.
“When kids are being hurt at their core of their being, I feel like it’s our moral responsibility as educators to ensure that that system gets fixed.”
Taylor has worked hard to support small changes that mean a world of difference for student groups who may feel marginalized or excluded.
Leading for equity is in Taylor’s nature: “I’ve always believed that an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” she said.