ESD teacher encourages students to celebrate their culture through New York Times teaching project

Donna Schou

An Edmonds School District teacher is helping students celebrate their culture through photography after she was selected to take part in a new teaching program from The New York Times.

The New York Times Teaching Project, 2020-21 brings together U. S. teachers to share ideas and work to develop imaginative ways to teach students while using the Times resources.

At Lynnwood High School, photography teacher Donna Schou said she is using photos featured in The Times section, The World Through a Lens, to teach students how to tell stories. According to Schou, the photos provide students at Lynnwood High — the district’s most diverse high school — with a window into cultures from other parts of the world, 

“I’m always looking for ways for my students to share their culture with one another and for them to sort of find a way to express their culture and become more in tune with it,” she said.

Schou, an Edmonds resident, was among 60 educators from 29 states selected by The New York Times Learning Network to participate in the project’s inaugural year. The program began with a virtual three-day summer institute in July, when teachers met with Times journalists, Learning Network staff and other educators.

With her curriculum, Schou said students are asked every few weeks to study a photo from The Learning Network’s What’s Going on in This Picture? section and provide a caption describing what they see. The project also teaches students the importance of photojournalism, Schou added.

“Several of the journalists from The Times that we got to listen to over the summer said they would forgo words of a story to have more photographs because they are what draw people into stories,” she said.

Initially, the newspaper planned to fly teachers to meet in person at The New York Times nuilding. However, Schou said those plans have been postponed. Instead, teachers spent the three days attending webinars and participating in online activities. Each month, they meet virtually to discuss the program and offer each other updates on lessons.

At the end of the program, Schou said students will be asked to submit a photo or photo series that represent their culture. In addition to displaying the photos in the school’s front office, Schou said she wants to display them publicly to show the community.

“At Lynnwood High School, I feel like diversity and culture is celebrated and so I’d like to have (students) capture that in photography,” she said. “For me being a photographer, that is a wonderful way to share with other people how you see your own world and for them to be able to see it and experience it as well.”

–By Cody Sexton

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