Field Trip: Equity, Part 2: Fifty Years Later


In Louisiana, 1969: “separate but equal” is a thing of the past – in theory. In practice, schools are largely still divided along racial lines. Eileen Sanchez was a white teacher who taught in the “black school,” at least until the day students and staff were told the school was closing.

In her book Freedom Lessons, Eileen details that tumultuous year and what it was like for her, the students and the other teachers. We spoke with Eileen about her experience:

  • What she learned about race and diversity
  • The impact it has had on her career as a teacher and ultimately, as a district administrator
  • Where we are today, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of education in 2020 and beyond
  • How teachers, administrators and department leaders like HR and C&I can work toward equity in their school systems

Full Transcript  

Hi there, Field Trip listeners. Today we have something special for you. In this second installment in our series on equity, we’re taking a trip to the deep south, and looking 50 years into the past. We’re talking with a teacher who, in 1969, was a new teacher, working in a divided community, at a time when Jim Crow was still painfully recent.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, I married my husband on June 28th, 1969. He was in the army, so we went to live there. He was a drill sergeant at Fort Polk and then I got a job teaching in the public schools.

It was a pivotal year for the school she taught in. A school, by the way, attended by the African American students in the community.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: At the end of that day, then we were all called into the cafeteria, auditorium, a large area, the whole staff, and we were told that, “Tomorrow the building will be closed, you will report to this other school.”

Through an overnight school closing, to entire classes being held back, Eileen Harrison Sanchez tells her story of teaching amid racial tensions in the late 1960’s. And she talks about the progress she’s seen since then in education, and the challenges still in front of us today.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Where we’re at now is that 80% of the teachers in the nation are white. There are not enough teachers that represent the cultures of each of the communities. And when the educator workforce reflects the diversity of the students and the community that they serve, they get better results.

From Frontline Education, this is Field Trip.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: My name is Eileen Harrison Sanchez. I am a retired educator. I retired after 40 years in public schools and I’ve written a book in my retirement.

Eileen spent 40 years in education, first as a teacher, and ultimately as a district administrator. Her book Freedom Lessons is a novel based on her own experiences teaching at an elementary school in Louisiana in 1969 – just fifteen years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

It’s worth saying here at the beginning: as a white woman, Eileen wants to be very careful this doesn’t come across as a white savior narrative. This is not an #ownvoices story, and while hopefully anyone who reads it will find it interesting, Eileen wrote this primarily with a white audience in mind. While some of the characters in her book are fictional and were created for the sake of the story, our view is primarily through the eyes of Eileen herself. It is, she says, “a story of discovery and exploration for Colleen, the narrator, and the reader, as we move through the story and start to understand the often-incorrect assumptions and prejudices the characters have about one another, which serve as the foundation for unjustified decisions and unfair situations.”

RYAN ESTES: One of the main characters in the book, Colleen Rodriguez, was based on what you experienced personally, teaching in the south in the late sixties. You are from New Jersey. So how did you find yourself teaching in Louisiana?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, I married my husband on June 28th, 1969. He was in the army, so we went to live there. He was a drill sergeant at Fort Polk. And then I got a job teaching in the public schools, and I was assigned to the black school. So that’s why I wound up there. I was a teacher in New Jersey and we only lived there for that one year.

Well, I applied early in the summer and I didn’t hear anything all summer and I thought that I was probably going to have to work in the five and dime, because I really did want to do some work, but I got a call to come in for an interview. And it was a typical interview. Well, no, it wasn’t typical. It was very simple. I handed in my paperwork, I spoke with the superintendent, he offered me a job. It wasn’t for a lot of money, but it was a lot more than the five and time would pay. And I took it right away. I didn’t know where the school was. It was second grade. That was the best fit for me.

While most white teachers had positions at the quote-unquote “white” school, Eileen was assigned a job teaching in the school where most of the black students attended. It was a beautiful building, only a little over 10 years old – which wasn’t what she expected.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Everyone was saying that it wouldn’t be well supplied. That turned out to be true. It wasn’t well supplied, but the building and the people in the building were very dedicated educators. And for the first three months that I worked there, it was a really good place to work.

It was only Eileen’s second year teaching, and anyone who has been a teacher knows that those first few years are intense. I asked Eileen to tell me about her very first day walking into the school.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Wow. The classroom had brick walls and it was well furnished, which surprised me. It was gleaming, it smelled clean. It was very well cared for. There were desks for each student. There were cubbies for them to hang their things. And they had 24 students. They sat in their desks. They were good listeners. And I just started my welcome to second grade speech. And you I started to teach and I had taught in a school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in an inner city school. And I had a very difficult class my very first year. When I asked these children to do anything, to sit down, to open their books, they were very compliant and obedient. They were good, good students.

The students were great. But the curriculum and classroom supplies? Not so much.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: The books were all hand me downs, so they were not at all— they were not new books. They were patched together. They were out very out of date. I had Dick & Jane books, the typical reading books, that were from, I think, 1954, and this was 1969. The year before, I had newer versions of those books where they actually did have an integrated family in the Dick & Jane books. These books were all about white children. So that was challenging because I felt that I needed to do something more for the students. I didn’t have any teacher guides, I had to create all my own comprehension questions. So the materials were very limited and I wound up going to the library to get extra books to take to my classroom, which is not uncommon. Teachers do that all the time. But it was really necessary because there wasn’t a well-stocked library in the school.

Connecting with the kids, with her students, who were of a different race, was easier than bridging the divides between adults. She developed a reading incentive plan — when a student finished a book, they got to put a ticket in a jar. At the end of the month, Eileen would take the jar to the front of the classroom.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: And then I would pull out four names, and I took the children to the library in my car on a Saturday morning. In preparation for those trips, I went to the library to get them library cards and I found out that that was not the way it was done.

Simply getting permission slips to take the kids to the library was a challenge.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: A challenge for the black parents to trust me, to allow me to pick their children up, but I did it, and at the end of each month for the three months, I did take four children each time and we visited the library. When we were in the library, it was not really accepted that there was a white teacher with four black children that she drove to the location with her car. So I was looked upon with surprise, I guess, more than surprise, some resistance in even getting the library cards from the librarians. I love librarians, but I was transplanted out of New Jersey where I was used to doing things a little differently, and when I was met with resistance about just getting library cards, it was a surprise.

RYAN ESTES: In the book you talked about how there were some raised eyebrows that a white teacher was teaching in a black school. Is that something that you personally experienced as well?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: For sure, I did. Not by the black teachers, but by the white people in the town. So when I went to get the library cards, they were surprised to see where I taught, and then they were hesitant to give me the applications, but they did.

Now, you might be thinking, “Hold on a sec. Eileen is talking about teaching in the ‘black school.’ But this is 1969. This is fifteen years AFTER ‘separate but equal’ was declared unconstitutional. How is this segregation still happening?”

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, many of the southern states used a policy that was called freedom of choice. Presumably you had the choice to go to any school you wanted to, but it was not convenient. You knew you weren’t welcome. So there were very few people in the area that I taught in that made that choice. There were a lot of army families. There were some people that came from other parts of the country and had different experiences growing up, perhaps in more integrated settings. They were more open and more supportive of me while I was in the school. There was one teacher particularly. But that was when I got to the other school, not in the black school. So in the black school I just had to find my own way. The art teacher was a big help, but that was the only other white teacher in the building.

In the late 60’s, the government began to mandate the integration of public schools in Louisiana, saying that this ‘freedom of choice’ model violated the law. And so November 4, 1969 – almost exactly 50 years ago – was a day that still looms large in Eileen’s memory. It was a Tuesday.

RYAN ESTES: I walked in with my class at the end of after lunch, and four administrators walked in the building. They were dressed in suits with narrow ties and white shirts. That’s the way you did it in those days. And they were standing in my classroom, and I was surprised to see them.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: One of them was a black man, but he was the building principal. The other three I recognized, one was the superintendent of schools and they just told me to go ahead with what I was doing. And I did. I taught the class, and I felt that it was an observation, a surprise observation. I was a new teacher. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think that there was a problem. I thought it was a lot of men to come and observe me.

But at the end of that day, then we were all called into the cafeteria, auditorium, a large area, the whole staff. And we were told that, “Tomorrow the building will be closed, you will report to this other school.” We were not to tell anyone or to inform the parents. They would take care of that for us. We were just to collect our personal things and then we would find out what were going to do the next day, just to report to the white school.

And so, the next day, Eileen and the rest of the staff came into work – to the school that had previously been almost entirely white. And, so did her students.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: I had my same class, plus six more kids, because they didn’t have enough space to put all the children. They didn’t have enough teachers and enough classrooms, so they had to divide up some of the classrooms. I was put into a trailer, which was really, at the time, it wasn’t the kind of portable classroom trailers we have today. It was a storage trailer. It had an air conditioner in there, but it just had a door, no windows. And so the classroom that I had in the black school, which as I said, it was a relatively new building, just a little more than 10, 12 years old, and now I had 30 children in a classroom where I had to have four rows of desks, and there was not enough space to have the children each have their own…we had a pathway between the rows and it was just a very, very tight fit. And these children were not used to air conditioning. The building that we left had, as I said, it had brick walls and big windows, lots of breezes that came down the hill. It was built into the hill in a way. It had outdoor carters. So the building itself was great. The materials weren’t. In the new building at the white school, when I was in the trailer, they moved all of my desks and books and we just reported and got to work.

And it was a shock for all of us to just be so tightly squeezed into this classroom.

RYAN ESTES: Tell me, your class that you had at this new school, was it your same kids? Were they all African American students or was it an integrated classroom as well?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: No, they were all African American students, the same 24 that I had at the other school plus an additional six students that were African American. I was the integration. I found out that I was assigned to have my class, I thought that I did such a good job when they came in to observe me that day, the day before, that they decided that I was good enough to keep my class. I don’t think that anymore. I think it was because I was the integration.

It was very challenging. All of the teachers that I taught with in the black school, with the exception of a few, did not have a classroom. They were second teachers in the white classrooms. So they basically lost their positions. They didn’t lose their paycheck, but they were no longer responsible to teach a class. They were as in there as helpers. I felt proud that I was able to keep my class and I thought that it was because I was doing such a good job. I was doing a good job. But I think it was more than that.

RYAN ESTES: So you finished out the year teaching in the white school, teaching at the now integrated school, but with a class that doesn’t seem that integrated. Tell me about how the rest of the year went.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: We had our ups and downs as any second grade teacher would understand. Through the year you go through highs and lows and it got harder as the year went on because it was just so challenging to be in that tight space. I created ways that we could use the outdoors, to sometimes have classrooms just to get outside. I had to stop taking the children to the library. That’s part of the story and I won’t tell you that part of the story. You can read the book. But it was putting the children in danger for me to take them and so I lost that incentive. So I had to come up with new ways to keep them engaged and interested. I do believe I did a good job. I knew how to keep records, to prove that they were improving.

There were some different types of testing that I would use or portfolios or end of chapter assessments that might have been in the workbooks that they had. Two weeks before school ended, which was like the last week of May, so two weeks before that, middle of May, I was called into the principal’s office and I was told that I needed to retain my entire class.

The principal told Eileen that none of her students would be advancing to the third grade.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: They had to repeat second grade, thirty 2nd grade children, every single one of them. There was no decision making about what kinds of progress they made or didn’t make. It was just a blanket decision.

I found out years later, 40 years later, that the high school seniors were told that they couldn’t graduate. All of the African American students were held back. And that was supposedly because they didn’t meet the standards of the white school and they couldn’t move on to the third grade.

So that was quite defeating because I had done my best and I knew that they had improved and I had the proof that they did, but nobody wanted to know that. So they were retained. And I had to send the letter home to tell the parents. An aunt of one of the children, two of the kids that were in my class, they were cousins. She came to talk to me about why I was retaining the class. And I explained what had happened, that it was not my plan, that I didn’t think it was deserved.

She listened to my story and understood that I was not the problem or the cause, but it still happened. The children were kept back.

RYAN ESTES: I wonder if I could get you to read just a page or two out of this book for me. This is the part of the book where you are told that you are going to need to report to a different school the following day.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: “Mrs. Rodriguez,” Mr. Peterson called from his doorway. “You may come in now.” He gestured to the same chair she’d used when she’d confided the story about Evelyn. There were deep creases in his forehead that she had never noticed before.

“Well, Mrs. Rodriguez, this will be the last time we can sit here and talk.” He leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. “You’ll be pleased to know that you will be keeping the 24 students who are in your class.” Colleen shifted in her chair waiting for the “but” she could see his face. It came right away. “Some of the classes need to be shared,” Mr. Peterson continued. “You will have an additional six students from another second grade class.” Six more?” “Each class will have 30. There aren’t enough classrooms.” The weight of this information caused Colleen to slump into her chair. “I’ll have a classroom?” “Yes, but not in the main building. Four temporary portables have been moved to the backfield. You will have one of those. Your furniture, books, and materials will be moved there by morning.” He stood up to escort her out of the office.

“I’m sure you have many questions, but that’s all the time I have right now. You’re a fine teacher, Mrs. Rodriguez.” His face tightened. “You’re not one of the teachers who have to worry.” “Is that because I’m white?” Tears built behind Coleen’s eyes and her temples throbbed.

That is a brief excerpt from Eileen’s upcoming book, Freedom Lessons, which, again, is a novelized account of her own experience, and I highly recommend it. After that year, Eileen returned to New Jersey and continued to teach. And I asked her, how did her experience teaching in the south impact the rest of her career?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: It affected the entire rest of my career. Probably the biggest impact was that anytime that— I had a career in elementary teaching for about 10 years, I taught almost every grade: kindergarten, preschool, first grade, fourth grade, second grade. When I had kindergarten and preschool and first grade, anytime a child was suspected of not doing well, and any talk about retention, I was dead set against it. And as I had more experience and I went back to graduate school, I also became a learning disability teacher consultant. So I had testing materials and I used to use a tool called the Light Retention Scale. It was a 10 point scale you go through and you get details and specific information about why a student isn’t well doing well. If there’s a red flag, like they’re a little young for a class or too old for the class, if their birthday fell out of the typical time period or if they were a second language student or if they had a hearing problem, those were the red flags, and you would never retain a child because of those issues. And I never found a child who didn’t have— there might have been a reason that they were not doing well, but there were other solutions and retention was never the one that I would choose.

RYAN ESTES: Over the last 40 or 50 years, we’ve seen some progress in a lot of ways when it comes to racial issues — although racial tension, to put it mildly, is still very much a reality for so many people in our country. From your perspective, how has this issue evolved since the early seventies, specifically in education?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, as I said, from, from my experience, there was an over-representation of minority students in special education. And that, in a way, was a segregation within a school. Even if a school was integrated, many of the classes were segregated. So I was involved in different programs as a child study team member and as an educator. I did some trainings and the focus was on changing that over-representation of minorities. As a learning consultant, a teacher would give you a referral if the child wasn’t doing well, and it was often a little African American boy who didn’t sit still in his chair.

Maybe there were some other behavioral issues, but that was not a reason to be referred to a child study team. He didn’t have a learning disability. Another example could be that a student had a second language issue, so that they weren’t getting the vowel sounds right. Well that’s because they were learning English and again, just because they have poor spelling and they’re second language students, that’s not a reason to refer a child to special education. But it did happen and some students were accepted into the programs, but not on my watch.

I asked Eileen to talk more about this issue of race and racial diversity in education. How does she see where we’re at right now, and how did we get here? Is she encouraged or discouraged by the progress she can see?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, progress was made in the 70s and the 80s, it was. Since the 90s, I have to say, it’s kind of discouraging that some of the progress has been lost.

Where we’re at now is that 80% of the teachers in the nation are white, and there are obviously various reasons why that might be true. But from my research since then, and my observation in the districts that I worked in, which were all integrated districts, there are not enough teachers that represent the cultures of each of the communities. There is an effort from the National Education Association that just this past year are making a real push to encourage that, and to encourage other teachers that are already working to find high school students and college students and encourage them to represent their culture, whether it be Hispanic culture or African American culture or, where I live, there are a lot of people that come from India. So Gujarati is a language that is spoken in local schools. There are just so many multicultural families, and the schools really do need to be represented by teachers so that the children have role models. And the National Education Association has made, not that it wasn’t happening before, but there’s a stronger push from that association to help that to happen.

There’s evidence, there are lots of researchers out there that are doing good work, and they are finding that a diverse teaching staff is important. We want to look at research based policies. You want to work from that perspective. You need to have that kind of evidence. There’s lots of research, common sense, practical experiences that many schools are working toward these goals, but it needs to be continued and every teacher in every classroom needs to be aware of how are they looking at their students.

When I was a supervisor going into work with teachers, sometimes you would look at how many questions the teacher is asking and who are they calling on. And so sometimes teachers can do that as a self study to make sure that they are not favoring one group of students, only asking girls or only asking someone … you want the right answer, so you’re only asking the kid that you know is going to give it to you. There’s lots of other reasons.

Eileen said it’s encouraging that there seem to be a lot of good, honest conversations happening among teachers today, and she said it’s critical that the work continues to be evidence-based.

I asked Eileen about studies that suggest that when students are taught by someone of similar race or gender or ethnic background, that can be helpful to them academically. For example, the IZA Institute of Labor Economics released a paper called “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers,” showing that black students are more likely to finish high school and attend college if they have a black teacher between grades 3 and 5. I asked if she has been able to observe anything similar herself.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Yes, definitely. It’s more from a guidance counselor that I worked with in my last district. They can understand a student, they know their families, they just make a better connection. It’s the same for a white family, a white teacher, white children. If you’re Irish, you just know the culture. My husband is Cuban. You just know the culture. So there are better connections. There is evidence that those kinds of connections are valuable and the kids need these role models. In one of the districts I worked in, there were bilingual programs, and so a Korean teacher would teach the Korean children. She also helped them to move into the mainstream classes. So they always had someone that they could connect with.

It’s so important to understand the culture of the students you’re teaching, Eileen said. And she told me about how some of those cultural differences popped up when she was working with Chinese and Korean students.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: They don’t look you in the eye. It’s disrespectful for a child to look an adult the eye. I took some training and I learned that. We need to work from both sides here. As a white educator, you need to learn what is appropriate in another culture.

RYAN ESTES: That’s interesting, because so often I’m trying to train my children to look adults in the eye when they speak to them.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Exactly. You know, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” Right? Yes, you have to understand where that’s coming from. They’re not being disrespectful, they’re being respectful when they don’t look you in the eye, head down. We tend to say, “Head up, shoulders up and be proud.” Not that they aren’t that way either, but when they’re speaking with an adult, that would be the case.

RYAN ESTES: I believe that there are people in this country who would probably look at some of these issues and say, “Look, it’s 2019 we’ve ‘solved’ this. We’ve dealt with this and we’re moving on. And they look around and they don’t see these issues close to the surface. There are other people, in other parts of the country or maybe the same parts of the country, whose experience is very, very different. Who see, “Yes, there have been some good things. There have been some really hard things and we have a ton of work yet to do.” Although the challenges look different today than they did in 1969 or 70, or may look different today — in some ways I’m sure they look the same — there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that every student, regardless of skin color or income level or where they live or religion, has access to a great education. What would you say are the opportunities that lie before us today? Are these policy issues, or are they hiring issues, or are they awareness issues, or issues we can address with professional development, or something else? And I know that that’s a big question.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, it’s an important question because it’s 50 years, and people are looking at this because it’s 50 years. Where are we? How have we done? The Kerner commission was done back in 1968, in March of 1968 and there is a book out now, Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report. And they took a look at it. It’s a volume that is not easy read. It’s not just about education. There are a lot of policies in it. But as far as education policies, they look back on what worked, and policies based on evidence are what work. Racial integration works. Investments in public schools, school equity, quality teachers, childhood education, preschool education works. Community schools work.

A diverse teaching staff is what’s recommended, not from their reports, but from other researchers that I’ve looked at. And when the educator workforce reflects the diversity of the students and the community that they serve, they get better results.

Eileen mentioned two researchers, David Stevens and Jason Greenberg Motamedi, who have written about how schools can increase diversity in the teaching workforce.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: They are recommending implementing human resource policies and practices. That’s something that is needed. In their work, they found that that’s something too, if you’re hiring diverse teaching staff, are you retaining them? And what needs to be done for districts that are working on that? That’s something that they’re looking at that is needed. There’s a lot of work going on, positive things, but that’s one that they would recommend.

There are professional development opportunities out there that districts have taken, but it takes direction from the top. It takes agreement from the staff. It’s about reaching all students. It’s about opening your classroom to all of the multicultural opportunities that we have. I’d like to recommend a book called, Tell Me Who You Are. It’s written by two young women who are actually freshmen in college, Wynona Guo and Priya Vulchi, I might be saying their names incorrectly.

Their book is an amazing opportunity for people to find out about other cultures. They went around the country and interviewed people about race. They are both in top schools, Harvard and Yale, I I think, might be the schools. But they are sharing our stories of race and culture. They also have a website called where they have materials for teachers and for school districts to use based on a lot of the work that they did.

It takes some effort for districts to offer the training. I was involved in a three year program, a grant to reduce the over-representation of minorities in special education. And one of the ways that we were trying to do that was to implement co-teaching classrooms where you have a special education teacher and a general education teacher, and you move students out of the segregated classrooms into the more integrated classrooms. But there needs to be training in that. That’s just one example.

I think that I’ve seen teachers really make an effort at having extra books in their classrooms that would represent different cultures that would open an opportunity for a student to gain extra credit, because they have to follow the curriculum as to the books that they’re required to read. But I worked with two teachers that do this in the high school when I was a supervisor. They would have books representing other cultures. So you can read it for two reasons. You’re going to read to see yourself, like a mirror, or you’re going to read a book from about another culture, to learn about it. It’s a window into a different culture. That’s a pretty easy way for any teacher, no matter what grade, to have your classroom library have those kinds of offerings that will reflect the culture of your class. Even if you are not of that culture, you can reflect that. One of my daughters has a classroom in second grade. She has all those types of books, deliberately for children to be able to see themselves. You can do it at any grade level.

RYAN ESTES: That’s great. And from a teacher’s perspective, fantastic. What about from a leadership perspective? How have you seen leaders support teachers in doing this work? How have you seen them either attract and hire and keep the kinds of teachers who are going to be impacting students in this way, or even while they have them, just offering the kinds of support that’s needed, in order to in order to accomplish some of these things that we’ve been talking about?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Well, I’ve worked in two districts that did this a little differently, where teachers could get together and they could choose a topic like this that they want to study. How they might learn about unconscious bias, let’s say. So they would have a learning program that they are in charge of. But the administrators have to give something back. So in one district, a staff member can suggest a program and then they get a topic, they have to get permission to do the topic. It’s not just anything you want. And then the people that take the course actually earn credit and after they accumulate so many credits, they actually have a salary increment. That’s one way.

In another district, we had a program that I was part of in my last district that offered a similar after school program. Teachers got together, maybe they would choose to read a book together and then study it. They identified what the topic would be. Again, it had to be approved. In this case, if they accumulated so many hours, instead of coming to a whole professional development day, typically in May when everybody wants to go away instead of going to a professional development day the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, if you accumulated enough after school credits, you could have that day and you could take that day off.

RYAN ESTES: Last of all, I see you have a number of notes out in front of you and I want to ask, what have you been waiting for me to ask? Is there anything that you say, “Oh, I’d really like to cover this and I just haven’t gotten the right question and this is really important”? Is there anything that that would fall into that category for you here?

EILEEN SANCHEZ: I guess I’d like to say that after I wrote the book Freedom Lessons and it was recommended by my publisher to have some questions. What are the themes? What is this book about? What somebody’s going to take away from it? What are your major messages? And I thought, wow. It took a long time for me to come up with them. But I realized, what are the freedom lessons? What lessons did I learn from this book? What do I hope that people might take away from this book? So the freedom lessons are: treat others as you would like to be treated. Just the golden rule. Have courage to confront uncertainty, intimidation or danger. Family is important. Family provides security, identity and values. And that’s the one thing I did try to recognize within my book. Each of the main characters, Colleen, Frank and Evelyn, family was critical. It didn’t matter if it was a white family or a black family. Family gave them the support they needed. Prejudice is taught and learned. And my last one is that it takes individual actions to create social change.

So any of the topics that we were talking about, I think it has to strike someone that, “This is important to me. This is something I want to do.” And that might be the seed for whatever after school book they want to get together and have a book club and ask the administrator if they could have some extra time, in place of that extra time they spent after school.

RYAN ESTES: Eileen Harrison Sanchez is the author of the book Freedom Lessons, which comes out later this year. Eileen, thank you for your time today. It’s been great to speak with you.

EILEEN SANCHEZ: Thank you very much for this opportunity.

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Field Trip is a podcast from Frontline Education. Frontline makes school administration software. But we’re more than that – we work to be a partner to education. What does that mean? Well, it means our entire focus is K-12 education. In addition to our software and our client success team that’s dedicated to seeing you succeed, we also bring original K-12 research, data and insights, as well as free resources for education leaders. Find out more at

For Frontline Education, I’m Ryan Estes. Thanks for listening, and have a great day.