Shine On, Jen Lucine / Continuar brillando, Jen Lucine

Jackson Street School kindergarten teacher and activist Jen Lucine wants to help her students feel seen and heard—”a real sense of belonging in their community,” she says. Now in her fifteenth year of teaching at JSS, Jen is a passionate advocate for social justice, which for her goes hand in hand with educating some of our district’s youngest.

Integrating social justice into her curriculum intentionally and in everyday ways, Jen emphasizes play at every turn, seeing this as an important tool for promoting principles of equity and inclusion.

“Play is the work of early childhood; it is the language of young children,” she says. “When children are given a chance to play, they are communicating on their terms, they are learning at their level, and they are engaging with the creation of a classroom community. And building a sense of identity and community is central to creating a more socially just environment.”

At the start of each school year, Jen supports her students in exploring their personal identities, then moving into discussions of family and community identity. The role of changemakers, including those from the civil rights and women’s liberation movements, is another point of focus in Jen’s classroom, which is adorned with images and other materials that reflect our multicultural society.

“We learn about people from all over the world, both historical and current, who [made and who] want to make change and why,” she shares. “We treat these individuals as mentors in thinking about how we can make change when we see injustice in the world. And whenever possible we look to local events and local activism as inspiration.”

Jen loves seeing her students respond positively to her teaching and gain awareness of the world around them. In 2020 she read aloud a book, We Are Water Protectors, inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests of Indigenous communities to its proposed construction, then mailed messages of support from her students to a Cheyenne River Sioux water protector who was facing jail time (see photos). 

Jen wishes more people could experience what she calls the magic happening across her elementary school, including inspiring conversations about social justice within the classrooms and the brilliance of young people’s thoughts, ideas, and play. It is so infused throughout the community that Jen insists that the Shine On spotlight be shared with all of her colleagues and students across Jackson Street School.

In her words: “I am one among many.”

With its “Shine On” series, REAL spotlights educators, caregivers, staff, and students who are using their energy, creativity, and heart to build community and dismantle systemic racism in Northampton Public Schools and beyond.


Jen Lucine, maestra de kindergarten y activista de Jackson Street School, quiere ayudar a sus estudiantes a sentirse vistos y escuchados— “un verdadero sentido de pertenencia en su comunidad”, describe. Ahora en su quince año de enseñanza en JSS, Jen es una apasionada defensora de la justicia social, que para ella va mano a mano con la educación de algunos de los más jóvenes de nuestro distrito.

Al integrar la justicia social en su plan de estudios de manera intencional y de cada día, Jen enfatiza el juego en cada pasos, ya que lo ve como una herramienta importante para promover los principios de equidad e inclusión.

“El juego es el trabajo de la primera infancia; es el lenguaje de los niños pequeños”, dice ella. “Cuando los niños se les da la oportunidad de jugar, se comunican en sus propios términos, aprenden a su nivel y se involucran en la creación de una comunidad en el aula. Y construir un sentido de identidad y comunidad es fundamental para crear un ambiente mas social y mas justo”.

Al comienzo de cada año escolar, Jen apoya a sus estudiantes en la exploración de sus identidades personales y luego pasa a discusiones sobre la identidad familiar y comunitaria. El papel de los agentes de cambio, incluidos los de los movimientos por los derechos civiles y la liberación de la mujer, es otro punto de enfoque en el aula de Jen, que está adornada con imágenes y otros materiales que reflejan nuestra sociedad multicultural.

“Aprendemos sobre personas de todo el mundo, tanto históricas como actuales, que [hicieron y quiénes] quieren hacer cambios y por qué”, comparte. “Tratamos a estas personas como mentores al pensar en cómo podemos hacer cambios cuando vemos injusticia en el mundo. Y siempre que sea posible, buscamos eventos locales y activismo local como inspiración”.

A Jen le encanta ver a sus estudiantes responder positivamente a su enseñanza y adquirir conciencia del mundo que los rodea. En 2020, leyó en voz alta un libro, We Are Water Protectors (Somos protectores del agua), inspirado en el oleoducto Dakota Access y las protestas de las comunidades indígenas por su propuesta de construcción, luego envió mensajes de apoyo de sus estudiantes a un sioux del río Cheyenne que se enfrentaba a la cárcel tiempo (ver fotos). 

Jen desea que más personas puedan experimentar lo que ella llama la magia que sucede en su escuela primaria, incluidas conversaciones inspiradoras sobre la justicia social dentro de las aulas y la brillantez de los pensamientos, las ideas y el juego de los jóvenes. Está tan infundido en toda la comunidad que Jen insiste en que el centro de atención de Shine On se comparta con todos sus colegas y estudiantes de Jackson Street School.

En sus palabras: “Soy una entre muchas”.

Bienvenido al lanzamiento de “Shine On”, la nueva serie llamada REAL (Por sus siglas en ingles “Racial Equity and Learning’s”, lo cual significa: Equidad racial y aprendizaje) que destaca a los educadores, tutores, el personal y los estudiantes que están usando su energía, creatividad y ponen su corazón para construir una comunidad y desmantelar el racismo sistémico en las escuelas públicas de Northampton, y de demás lugares.

NHS conflicts & the need for restorative practices

[From an email sent March 16, 2022]

Dear School Committee Members and Superintendent Provost,

We, along with the broader community, have been watching recent exchanges at School Committee meetings about the shift to embedded honors in math courses at NHS. We have also read Susan Voss’s collection of Principal Vallaincourt’s correspondence–and we feel compelled to comment.

First, we want to clarify that, contrary to what’s in an email from Principal Vaillancourt on page 199 of Susan’s compilation, REAL never endorsed the shift to embedded honors in math at the high school.

Second, we want to express our disappointment at Principal Vallincourt’s urging of a colleague to “keep talking equity and they will be in our camp.” This use of “equity,” seemingly as a buzzword to persuade stakeholders of her position, devalues the actual work of equity and the many people across our district who are committed to it. And while we acknowledge there could be context around this quote that adds some nuance, the statement certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Reasonable people can have different approaches to achieving district-wide equity, but all such approaches must involve respectful, inclusive, and transparent discussion.

We also read in the recent Gazette article that the move to embed honors in math has been in process since 2015, and yet it appears that the School Committee and caregivers only became aware of that change in 2021. Perhaps some of the tension and misunderstanding about the shift could have been alleviated with greater transparency and substantive engagement with all stakeholders over the years.

For REAL, the recent conflicts strongly underline the need for a deep investment of time and resources into restorative practices (RP) in the district. We believe that the RP approach to community building and conflict resolution is foundational to a school district that honors the dignity of all students and adults–and we can see how, in our current climate, taking a dedicated, well-funded restorative practices approach could give all parties a chance to be heard, accept accountability as appropriate, and move toward healing when people cause and experience harm.

As such, we fully support the RP funding that Superintendent Provost discussed in his recent budget proposal, to enable NPS stakeholders to develop a robust and sustainable plan for ongoing training and implementation of restorative practices across the district. And in the nearer term, one RP-aligned move that could be implemented by district leaders is to provide the NHS Student Union, and other students as applicable, with “restorative response” resources due to how they have been drawn into the conflict over embedded honors. It would likely be useful for these students to be part of a facilitated process during which they could debrief recent events and construct, together, a path forward. We would be happy to connect with you further on what this support might look like.

This is a tumultuous time in our world and district. We deeply appreciate all of your dedicated work in navigating with care, compassion, and inclusivity.


The REAL Coordinating Team

Reflect, discuss

Prompts for personal reflection and conversation with others:

> What do you experience in your body (sensations), heart (feelings), and/or head (thoughts) on reading the stories we just posted?

> What do these stories make you want to do/say? What feels possible for you to do/say? What feels hard and/or hopeful?

> Who has the power in these stories? Whose voice/s are not being heard?

> What choices might the people in these stories have had–and/or not have had? What is the impact of the choices they make?

> What might they have said or done differently in the moment–or afterward–and what impact might it have had?

REAL Talk, story 24

This story was shared by an NPS student.

Image ID: the background of image 1 is orange (upper one-third) and purple (lower two-thirds), with a large white square with rounded corners overlaying and within that square, this text in purple: “One time, I was at a restaurant with my friend and dad. We were the only customers and the employees were just talking in the back. A white waiter started talking about slavery; he claimed it didn’t happen in the North. He went on for a bit and continued to give the North a lot of credit. Everyone seemed a little, I take that back, very uncomfortable. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t feel comfortable confronting anyone.”

Image 2 has the same orange/purple split background, with the white text “Story Themes” running up the lower left side and two columns of white boxes (four per column) displaying our eight story themes. Here, the themes Emotional Response and Race & Identity are emphasized with bright/bold colors.

REAL Talk, story 23

This story was shared by an NPS parent/caregiver.

Image ID: the background of image 1 is orange (upper one-third) and purple (lower two-thirds), with a large white square with rounded corners overlaying and within that square, this text in purple: “I wish that languages besides English could be spoken freely in our schools without the speakers fearing embarrassment.”

Image 2 has the same orange/purple split background, with the white text “Story Themes” running up the lower left side and two columns of white boxes (four per column) displaying our eight story themes. Here, the themes Emotional Response and The Future are emphasized with bright/bold colors.