My very first job after graduating from college with a degree in education came from a random telephone call.

I vividly remember I was at home enjoying some recreational time playing a video game with my brother.

On the other end of the line was a private school superintendent from the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

He was in urgent need of a history teacher. He had been given my name and was hoping I’d be interested.

Need you ask, I thought. The Virgin Islands – Paradise found? Why this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Of course, I was!

Before you could finish quoting Malcom Forbes’ famous statement “education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one,” I was on a plane headed to St. Croix. 

Once I got there, it was so refreshing to see a place filled with so many people that looked like me.

And, I was very excited because I was sure I could make a huge impact there; that is, until the moment I opened my mouth…

You see, in the Virgin Islands, although I was surrounded by Black people, our way of communicating was altogether different. 

For instance, here in the U.S., we greet each other with ‘hello’ or ‘what’s up?’ but greetings in St. Croix were much more formal to the point where people perceived me as rude when I spoke like that. 

Can you imagine being considered rude for saying hello instead of returning a ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening?’ That’s when I realized it was a culture thing and that’s when I set about trying to understand everything I could about island culture.

Once I familiarized myself with all aspects of island life then I started thinking about the impact of culture on other people groups.

  • Is it the same everywhere?
  • Does everyone celebrate festivals and events the same way?
  • Does everyone focus on the same types of activities like eating the same foods or drinking the same drinks?

No, of course not!

In St. Croix, activities like kayaking which was unknown to me at the time, was a major part of the culture but in the U.S. it was not.

You may ask, what makes EQUITY and CULTURE so special?

EQUITY minded educators understand that education requires high expectations for all students. Additionally, EQUITY ensures the linguistic, CULTURAL, and experiential backgrounds of all students are systematically integrated into curriculum and instruction. 

CULTURE is an interesting concept that can be thought of as the different customs, arts, and achievements of various populations.

In fact, there is a cliché that goes: “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This statement suggests to me we should pay close attention to the differences in the environment we live and work in and respond accordingly. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always naturally happen that way.  

I believe the cliché refers to the essence of what CULTURAL awareness should be about which is why Leading Equity was born. 

Leading Equity’s birth resulted from a culture difference experience – an experience that initiated the motivation to spread the message of cultural awareness to the masses.   

A Little About Me

Sheldon L. Eakins, Ph.D. is the Director of the Leading Equity Center and host of the Leading Equity Podcast.

With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education. 

Dr. Eakins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools.

He has earned a B.S. degree in Social Science Education, an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Education. 

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