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July 30, 2020 | Abby Liu
In early June, Mustard Seed School publicly committed to self-reflection and institutional examination as it pertains to white supremacy, bias, and institutional racism. As a part of that effort, we have created a new role: Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This new director will serve on the the Leadership Team. MSS joyfully announces that Sra. Tania Oro-Hahn has accepted this new position.
Many of you know Sra. Oro-Hahn as the Spanish teacher for grades two through eight, a program that she founded in December 2003. You’ve seen her play guitar and lead worship as a Worship Leader. She also has a background in helping organizations self-reflect and consider white supremacy, bias, and institutional racism. For the last year, Sra. Oro-Hahn served as the MSS Action Step Leader in Cultural Competency as a part of our Strategic Plan. She has led the staff through several professional development experiences around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), including a StarPower simulation in the winter that prompted faculty and staff to consider the ethical uses of power. It has long been Sra. Oro-Hahn’s dream to formalize her role around DEI at Mustard Seed School. We’re grateful for her passion and leadership in this area.
Here are a few questions and answers to further introduce you to Sra. Oro-Hahn and her work.
Prior to working at MSS, I served as a campus lay pastor with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (at Rutgers and at Juilliard). Our region was known for its diversity and love for inclusion. I became the Director of the New York City Urban Project, an 8-week project that hand-selected a diverse student and staff pool and then placed them in internships in the city where they partnered with ministries that served the underserved. Our students helped develop GED programs for organizations such as the Bowery Transitional Center and supported others such as the Latino Pastoral Action Center in the Bronx.
After leaving IVCF I worked as the Director of Children’s Ministries at a Reformed church in Washington Heights. There I developed the children’s Sunday school and /breakfast program for a few years before moving to Jersey City and working at MSS. I know God sees and loves all people. I know he cares deeply about shalom…God’s word for peace, justice and salvation. In shalom, things are as they “ought to be.” They are made right. This is the call that drives me. What better work than helping all parts of our community live out the call for shalom? This passage from Isaiah 32;1-2 is on my mind as of late. “See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”
I started taking courses in late June toward a Diversity and Inclusion certificate through eCornell. This includes courses such as Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace; Counteracting Unconscious Bias: Improving Engagement; and Fostering an Inclusion Climate. The classes have been exceptional leadership training and have provided me with tools to help me think through how to assess and set our institution’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals. The courses have provided excellent leadership training and examples of best practices that have ignited my imagination. I’m thinking about how we make space for our school community to live out our call and desire to seek justice and work toward dismantling institutional racism. We have already taken some important steps and we will continue to work to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a reality in the classroom and beyond our blue door.
When the school publicly committed to self-reflection and institutional examination, we promised that we would pray and do the hard work of reviewing our organizational practices, goals, and habits. We promised we would pursue “a more excellent way” of being a kingdom people and to that end we self-examine honestly and without fear for we know God is calling us. The call to continually seek a “more excellent way” is part of our institutional DNA. The goal to serve families with greater love, honor, and respect has always been our center and it has not changed.
With that in mind, the other members of the Leadership Team and I began reviewing organizational goals and practices through a diversity and inclusion lens. Later in August we will complete that assessment and reveal goals. This is just the beginning. We will honor our commitment. We will make our work in this area transparent. We will share our findings and we will establish clear, measurable goals that sustain equity and foster diversity and inclusion.
I will continue to teach Spanish, which I love. Chris Gasca will join me as an Assistant Teacher in Spanish for Grades 2-3. I will not be continuing as a Worship Leader to make space for my new responsibilities.
For me speaking another language is like eating candy. It’s fun and delightful in every way. I love to help children engage in conversation boldly and delight in making sounds that might be different from their mother tongue. Speaking other languages feels like a party. I love to invite children to the party. I love words and value how they can make others feel welcome and belonging. I love the moment when young children realize for the first time that they are actually reading, understanding, and speaking in a new language. It’s magical to me. Children wake up to what they can do and I get to watch it happen. And if I have done things well, it all feels like a game we play. They don’t notice what they’re learning because it’s so natural. And one day they realize, “Hey, I understand all of that! Wait, isn’t it supposed to be harder?!”