Molly Winters Diallo, 2016 Bezos educator from Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami, Florida, was recently named the 2019 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school district. She is also currently a top five finalist for state teacher of the year. We had a chance to connect with Molly and learn more about her teaching approach and current projects. Here are a few highlights.
Bridging Student-Led Learning
As the Social Sciences Department Chair, Ms. Diallo helps students surpass national and global pass rates in her demanding AP Psychology and AP Human Geography courses. She also recognizes that while the content that young people learn is important, the environment in which students learn is equally important.
After coming to Aspen in June 2016 as a Bezos educator, Molly and her Scholar Faris Qubain returned home to reflect on what was most needed in their community. They discovered that despite their school’s diversity, students often self-segregate by ethnicity, race, and socio-economic status. Inspired to create change, Molly and Faris founded Branch Out!, a student-led program designed to celebrate diversity and build a more socially-inclusive school community based on kindness and respect.
This collaborative project provided students an opportunity to elevate their voice and leadership on an issue that was meaningful to them. In its second year, Branch Out! has expanded its reach to include two special events, Mystery Masquerade and Going Out on a Limb. Both were created with the goal of involving the wider school community.
“I am always in search of fresh ideas to make the learning experience more meaningful, while deepening my students understanding of the forces that shape them, our nation, and our world,” says Diallo.
For the last two years, Ms. Diallo and her students have participated in Students Rebuild—a free program that blends global citizenship, art experiences, and high-impact philanthropy into one easy and creative platform for educators—to expand on her equity-focused classroom and create opportunities for global learning.
As part of their participation in Students Rebuild last year, two of Molly’s students were chosen to have a day in their high-school experiences highlighted by filmmakers – in partnership with Global Nomads Group. They exchanged these stories with teenagers from rural Nicaragua and participated in a live-streamed virtual conversation with one another. Together, these young people examined what poverty looked like in their communities and how education can be a catalyst for achieving one’s dreams, in addition to shared interests like art, athletics, connecting with friends and sharing meals with family.
This year, Molly’s classroom is taking part in the Facing Difference Challenge which has allowed students to explore issues like race, religion, and ethnicity. Molly created a month-long unit that has allowed students to examine their identities, cultures, and work to engage with those who are different with curiosity and compassion instead of bias and judgement.
“I am emphatic about making sure that each individual feels safe and comfortable expressing divergent viewpoints,” says Diallo.
Layering Students Rebuild, her work with Branch Out! as a Bezos Scholar educator, and her depth of knowledge in Human Geography, U.S. History, and Psychology, Diallo expertly blends her many projects into a one cohesive body of work.
Her work elevates student voice, focuses on shared humanity, and connects young people to their peers across the globe. She also embraces discussion on issues related to social justice, particularly ones that can be difficult to talk about and even harder to change. Her students at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning continue to make an impact in their school community and beyond, moving past social division into a space of greater inclusion and diversity.