After Betsy DeVos was selected as Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, I interviewed teachers in California who had taught in Michigan, where DeVos was the chairwoman of the Republican party. Given DeVos’ support of charter and magnet schools, I also interviewed a student who went to a magnet school.
For 18 years, Brian Wilson taught in the same classroom of the same school in Michigan. Then, three years ago, 30 teachers in his district were laid off, four in his building alone. Policies had been gradually shifting, adding mandated paperwork onto teachers’ already busy schedules. Conversations between his colleagues strayed from discussing teaching strategies to reminding each other to fill out required paperwork. Friends around him were eager to leave behind their teaching days and started a constant countdown. Twelve more years until retirement. Ten more years. Eight more years. Five more years.
Wilson hated those conversations – the paperwork didn’t make him a better teacher and counting down the years until he retired just wasn’t fun. He knew it was time for a change and the only options were to teach in a different state or to switch careers. And when a friend told him a job was available in California at Palo Alto High School, he took the chance and applied.
This 2,000 word story examined the way our political climate impacted people from different communities. Since most people we interviewed were liberal, we balanced out their opinions by focusing on our sources’ personal experiences, rather than their political views, and also interviewing an expert and a conservative student.
The car’s tires screeched to a halt only centimeters away from senior Sarah Harb. She had just stepped onto the crosswalk when she noticed that a car had accelerated towards her instead of slowing down. She could only stare in disbelief at the driver — given the timing, she attributed the anger in his eyes to Harb’s hijab. It was the day after the 2015 Paris terror attacks.
“I remember hearing a bunch of screams from the other side of street, like on the sidewalk and they were like ‘Oh my gosh, are you crazy?’ to the [driver,]” Harb said. “He kind of just looked at me and I just looked at him, and I was so shocked. I had no idea what to say. And then I just ran across the street.”
Harb is Muslim, and her hijab is a proud part of her identity. Yet, she’s also watched the media and certain political groups connect that identity to the word “terrorism.” It’s made her more aware of what her presence in that overarching way of life — “Muslim” — means, even though she has never considered agreeing with the extremist sentiments that Trump and the media refers to.