George Lucas Educational Foundation

Becki Cohn-Vargas and Dorothy M. Steele

Authors of “Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn”

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D., serves as director of Not In Our School (NIOS). She spent over 35 years as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and superintendent in public education in California. As the NIOS director, she has developed a standards-based bullying and intolerance prevention curriculum and has worked to create accepting and inclusive climates in over 150 schools and colleges across the U.S. She has been hosted at the White House twice, where she briefed President Obama’s education staff, and has fostered partnerships with the PTA, NEA, Facing History, and the United Sikhs. Becki and her husband own a private reserve in Nicaragua and bring local and international student groups there for environmental education and biological research.

Dorothy M. Steele, Ed.D., is the former executive director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. She is an early childhood educator who has worked with teachers and children for 45 years in many settings, including directing early childhood programs and providing professional development to teachers in public schools. She is interested in teaching practices that are effective for diverse classrooms, alternative assessment processes that inform teaching and learning, and strategies that build inclusive communities of learners in schools.

In their book, Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn (2013) Dorothy Steele and Becki Cohn-Vargas describe research done to find an antidote to the effects of stereotype threat on students’ academic and social development in school and offer practical, evidence-based strategies that lead to an improved student sense of identity safety and higher levels of achievement.

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  • Education Equity

    Creating an Identity-Safe Classroom

    Identity-safe classrooms foster belonging and value for students of all backgrounds. Because social identity affects students' experiences, identity-safe teaching can help students become successful learners.