Member Spotlight: Rebecca Yenawine & Teacher’s Democracy Project
25 September 2019 - Sarah Kim

Sarah: “The following is the first of my interviews and our MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS. I spoke to Rebecca Yenawine who is the Executive Director of the Teacher’s Democracy Project (TDP), an education advocacy group in Baltimore City. TDP looks to bring together teachers and parents to fight for a more just urban education system in Baltimore.”

Rebecca has always been passionate about uplifting young voices. Years ago she founded the social justice organization New Lens, where she helped youth make videos about social justice issues. Now, as the Executive Director of TDP, she helps organize BCPS teachers and parents so that they can have more power in shaping school policy and practice.

Most recently, TDP was a part of incubating a union caucus. Now that the caucus won teacher union leadership, “they are able to lead all sorts of things that they normally wouldn’t have taken up because there wasn’t an active teacher body,” she says.

Making more supportive spaces for students also means retaining teachers — particularly Black teachers.

“Schools are very top-down spaces. They’re historically pretty oppressive spaces,” Rebecca says. “That history of oppression is important to counter.”

One initiative of which Rebecca is especially proud is the Black Teachers Recruitment and Retention Working Group, a yearlong working group that analyzed the decline of black teachers in the district.

“The key finding is that teachers leave because they don’t feel supported,” Rebecca says. “There’s a particular way that Black teachers are hit hard by the lack of supports because of the way that the District has structured some of the entryways into teaching.”

Rebecca has been a member of Impact Hub since 2017. As a neutral space, Impact Hub has been critical for teachers to be able to gather and organize, since teachers cannot organize inside their school buildings. Located in Central Baltimore and a block away from the BCPS District Office — with whom TDP works with regularly — IHB is accessible for teachers and parents across the city.

“It’s made us more visible,” Rebecca says of Impact Hub.

TDP has had very flexible funding. This is something that — after years of working in the nonprofit sector — Rebecca is grateful for.

“We’ve not had to make compromises in the ways that I’ve had to do in other jobs. And I feel like that’s essential, being able to follow where the work leads us, and follow what the funder thinks the work should be,” Rebecca says. “That’s a great gift.”