Kim Korona is a graduate of IHE’s M.Ed. program and serves as the Senior Program Director at HEART, a non-profit education organization. In addition to being an extraordinary humane educator in the classroom, Kim develops curricula and educational resources that promote compassion, critical thinking, and empowerment through topics related to animal protection, environmental ethics, and social justice. Kim is a tireless volunteer working on human rights, environmental, and animal protection issues and serves on the executive board of the Humane Education Coalition. We so admire Kim and her work and are excited to share with you this interview we conducted with her.
IHE: You’ve brought humane education to so many students, as well as humane education training and resources to so many teachers. Are there any stories that have been especially important to you that highlight the impact your work at HEART has had on young people, schools, and/or communities?
Kim: I have a lot of stories of how humane education has transformed young people, schools, and communities. But I’d like to share this particular story because it demonstrates not only the need to have humane education in every school, but the interest as well.
We have taught a professional development (PD) course for NYC public schoolteachers for the past nine years. Each year, we have teachers who are learning how to teach humane education content in effective and age-appropriate ways, as well as teaches who are learning about the humane education content for the first time themselves. It is often very eye-opening for them, and they recognize the importance of teaching these topics to their students. One elementary school teacher from our 2016 course explained at the beginning of the course that she had never heard of humane education before. At the end of course, which is just two months long, she wrote,
“HEART [Humane Education] should be state mandated just like child abuse coursework is. Although we are given city mandated PD on bullying, and a small variety of things which are important, having HEART PD would teach teachers more empathy and compassion and give them context of what is going on in the world. I believe it would improve the teaching profession, along with student learning, and increase better care of our shared world. If we want to change the world, we need to be aware of what is going on and offer [students] ways…to take action for positive change.”
This teacher’s belief that all educators should be exposed to humane education is not an isolated sentiment. An elementary schoolteacher who took our course this year said, “I wish all of our colleagues could take a crash-course version of this to kick off the school year…. It could really help to establish community and citizenship within a classroom, school or local community. Thank you again!”
Many teachers are thirsting for this content because it promotes prosocial behaviors and fosters a culture of compassion within the classroom and our larger global community.
IHE: We couldn’t agree more! The positive transformation of teachers leads to the positive transformation of children. You’ve been doing this work for a long time. Have you noticed any shifts among schools, teachers, and students that you find encouraging?
Kim: A big change I’ve noticed among teachers and students is that there is a lot more awareness about some of the topics we teach. When I first started teaching and brought up issues such as puppy mills, factory farming, or oppressive child labor, it seemed like hardly anyone was aware of these issues. But through the years, I have noticed that many more teachers and students have at least some familiarity with these topics, and they are concerned about them. But they are not sure what to do. When there is an initial awareness about the topic, it allows for more time to delve deeper into the topic, to think critically about it, and to consider ways to become involved in taking action and working to prevent and/or resolve the issue.
Additionally, as more educators are aware of these issues, there is a greater demand for resources that cover these topics. Many teachers want to teach these topics themselves, but they do not necessarily have the time to develop new activities and lesson plans, so I think it’s more crucial than ever that we have ready-to-go curricula and strategies that educators can use to bring humane education into their classrooms.
IHE: We feel the same way. Teachers want support and materials, and it’s wonderful that HEART provides so many fantastic resources. What do you love most about being a humane educator?
Kim: When I first learned about specific examples of hidden exploitation as a teenager, I felt frustrated that I hadn’t learned about these issues sooner. Discovering humane education provided me with the ability to teach young people about the issues that I wish I had learned earlier in life, and to cultivate the skills one needs to effectively take action. Through the years, when I have seen youth expand their knowledge, express their compassion, and demonstrate their earnest desire to make a positive difference, it has given me hope, and it has been truly inspiring.
Now that I spend most of my time at HEART helping to develop educational resources and offer professional development trainings, I appreciate the even bigger reach that we have when I hear teachers say how important the humane education curriculum is, and the ways in which it has engaged and transformed their classrooms.
IHE: I know that you do other forms of activism to create positive change. Why is humane education the primary way in which you work for a more just and compassionate world?
Kim: The reason humane education is such an important form of activism to me, especially in recent years, is because our world has become so divisive, and we often don’t really sit down with those who think differently than we do to learn from one another. We often put people into narrowly defined boxes, and no longer see one another as human beings, but instead as caricatures based on bias and stereotyping. I think humane education is an antidote to this exclusivity and divide. We aim to create safe spaces where youth can learn about issues facing our world today, question our “societal norms,” use active listening and critical thinking to take different perspectives into consideration, and reflect. It is not designed to fight, antagonize, or judge, but instead to listen, question thoughtfully, and understand. Then, youth can decide for themselves what they actually think and explore ways in which they can take action, on both a personal and systemic level, to work toward positive change.
IHE: Beautifully said, Kim. Thank you for all you do!
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