Suzy Hansen, newly minted school board representative in Halifax, explains why it’s important to have diversity in leadership, especially in Canadian schools.
Like any mother, Suzy Hansen wants the best education for her kids—but she’s perhaps a little more involved than most in making sure they get it! After years of community involvement, the mother of six decided to campaign to become a district representative for the Halifax Regional School Board last year. The campaign was a success and Hansen now occupies a seat at the board table, voicing her ideas and opinions on tough decisions.
And as an African Nova Scotian woman, this voice is a significant one. Despite a centuries-long history in the province, there’s still not a lot of representation when it comes to African Nova Scotians in leadership positions. In 2015, the Black Canadian Studies Association (a cross-Canada organization that promotes research into, and understanding of, the Black Canadian experience) recognized this gap and dedicated their entire annual conference to answering questions on the current and future state of Black leadership in Canada.
That’s why Hansen’s so excited about her new role. “It’s something that I hold very dear, because I represent a group of people that don’t always get seen, get represented as much as they should,” she told Metro News just after the municipal election in November 2016.
We spoke with Hansen about inclusion in education and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role.
What are the ways in which African Nova Scotian students are not getting the education they—and all students—deserve?
I believe that all children learn differently and that educators need to be aware of this cultural learning when they teach. African Nova Scotian learners need to see themselves in the classroom in order to build that confidence to learn.
Why do you think diversity is so important in leadership?
The first step to believing something is seeing it. Diversity in leadership gives a model of achievement for students to attain and believe in. I would like to hope that me being in a position that can be looked up to inspires others to do the same.
How does diverse leadership in schools benefit everyone?
Diversity among community, teachers and parents can create a sense of belonging and understanding for all students.
How can schools and classrooms better promote diversity and inclusiveness?
Schools and classrooms can include more cultural relevance and cultural pedagogy [the study of education] in the teaching curriculum. Often overlooked is the importance of physically depicting diversity, such as including more [diverse] posters in schools and learning spaces.
What would you say to school boards across the country hoping to promote diversity and inclusion?
The first step in promoting diversity and inclusion is to elect someone who has a different perspective on how to do things. We need more voices sitting at the table. One of the reasons I ran for school board was because I knew that sitting at the table where decisions are made is where my voice would be heard.