My King Story Post

Meet Dr. Rachel Jean-Baptiste, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What about King School first appealed to you? 

It’s something that several students said in one of the Admission videos on the King website: King is a place that encourages each student to discover their passions and gives them the tools to delve into them, develop them further, and become the person that they’d like to be.  That’s pretty powerful. That drew me in and made me want to become a member of such an exciting learning environment.    

What do you feel distinguishes King from other schools? 

The belief that the experience of education is just as important as the outcome - indeed, that an educational experience that is learner-centered cultivates an intrinsic motivation to learn, and that benefits students for the rest of their lives. 

What is your top priority for your first year at King? 

I don’t have just one, but three.  All are tied to expanding cultural competence - the ability to understand, communicate with, and work and learn with people across a wide range of cultures. My first area of focus is to develop recruitment, hiring, and professional growth & development processes that ensure that we attract  a deep pool of talented staffulty that reflect the diverse makeup of our 21st century world.  The second is to work with teachers across all divisions on inclusive curriculum development and pedagogy, which means integrating social, emotional, and cognitive skills that allow for academic excellence.  The third is to curate community-building events for parents and caretakers to acquire knowledge and tools that encourage children’s social-emotional literacy, which will help provide a full circle of support for students from school to home.  

How does King challenge and inspire students? 

King does this in so many ways!  I’ll focus on just a few developmentally appropriate examples that I’ve seen. Our Global Studies trips aren’t just occasions where students Instagram their way through the world; they actually experience life and culture and problem-solving. In the Upper School, students who want to learn about a topic or subject matter that isn’t offered in a course can write a proposal to do an independent study project, and a teacher will advise them through the completion of that project that includes the presentation of their findings to the community.  In the Middle School, students elected by their peers to the student council take the lead in working with the King Cares program to bring meaningful opportunities for community engagement to other students. And, it has been delightful to witness the youngest members of the King community, our PreKindergarten and Kindergarten students, puzzle through the process to build and fly planes.     

How do you define ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’  

There is a well-used metaphor in the world of DEI professionals that equates the work we do with planning a party.  The saying goes that diversity is making sure that everyone is invited to the party.  For me, diversity is about representation - ensuring that people across a wide spectrum of worldviews, ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, and political affiliation -  are part of a community.  Research has shown that a diversity of viewpoints and life experiences leads to innovation and creativity.  Connecting the dots from a passive place of having diversity to leveraging diversity for innovation and creativity is: equity.  This means ensuring fairness in access to information and resources for all, which entails acknowledging that different students have different needs to achieve success and putting those tools in place.  To continue the metaphor, it means that every invitee plays a role in party-planning. Many DEI professionals define inclusion as being asked to dance when you arrive at the party.  I think inclusion is more than that. It requires intentional practice on everyone’s part.  Inclusion means that everyone at the party does a new dance, one that they didn’t know before and became aware of through their interactions with each other. Inclusion entails leveraging diversity in order to make it so that all students, staffulty, and families experience King as a safe, welcoming community to which they belong.   It means I believe that it is this type of culture that will ensure that King continues to be at the cutting-edge of delivering innovative education for the long-term. 

How would you like to influence the student experience at King? 

Using thoughtful and collaborative cultivating practices, policies, and processes that align to our educational philosophy, I will ensure that every student is known, heard, and understood.  

Tell us one thing about yourself that someone might not know. 

I started taking piano lessons a few years ago.  I have zero background in musical training, and I wanted to learn something new.  I was terrified at my first recital!  The six-year olds who followed me played better than me.  I find that taking up new things, even though scary, is a humbling practice that leads me to be a more empathetic and effective educator.