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Press December 10, 2018

BDS Teacher Valencia Clay Spotlighted in Baltimore Magazine

“You’re so open about your struggles with depression on Instagram and in your classroom.”

Cameo: We chat with the Baltimore Design School teacher Valencia De’La Clay

Baltimore Magazine: by Lauren LaRocca – December 2018

You’ve gained attention for incorporating self-empowerment and activism into your eighth-grade English classes, which are made up of students from across the city. How do you work in those kinds of lessons? 

It always goes back to the text. If I read a story, I’m going to find something that relates to [some of] my students’ trauma. We read about a woman who did not speak for years because she saw someone get killed. I asked the kids, “Why did she feel that way?” Once I get them talking about her, I can then ask, “Have you ever felt that way? Do you know anyone who feels that way?” If I can figure out a way to pull out the social-emotional discussion points, then I can get them to open up enough for me to motivate them. I’m all about doing what I feel our curriculum is missing.

How does that compare to how other schools approach emotional learning?

A lot of schools are adopting social-emotional learning curriculums that are supplementary to [their normal] work, such as 10 minutes of meditation in the middle of the school day. There are so many ways to implement social-emotional stuff into every class, but no one’s doing it yet. So that’s what I’m modeling through my curriculum, and eventually I’m going to bleed that throughout the entire nation—that’s my plan.

You’re so open about your struggles with depression on Instagram and in your classroom.

Yeah, I’m pretty open about everything. The only thing I do not share is my love life. I’d rather have something I can keep for myself. But the depression—I don’t feel like it’s mine to keep. Depression is really our fight—it’s an American fight; it’s a universal issue; it’s something that so many of us saw our parents try to live through. We didn’t know what we were looking at. Now for everyone who understands it and has the courage to speak about it, it’s our responsibility to do so. 
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