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Jessica Mallare Best

Director of Educational Equity

What do you do at CEI?

As the Director of Educational Equity I am responsible for working with our school district partners. This shows up in a variety of ways. From facilitating sessions, designing curriculum, offering coaching and consultation, to building and envisioning new possibilities for this work in our educational institutions.

What did you do prior to CEI?

I have had the amazing opportunity to work with youth all over the Portland area as a high school social studies teacher for well over a decade. During this time I also was able to do youth work through the summers as a contracted facilitator for Open School’s Step Up program, co-facilitate CEI’s Equity Certificate program, and lead professional development in the buildings I taught in. To sum it up, I have intentionally chosen to be engaged with youth and racial equity work with educators as much as possible. Throughout my career, I have had the honor to serve in dramatically different communities and serve a diverse collective of young people and their families. What I have learned is that no matter where our kids come from, or what they bring with them through their lived experiences, they all want to be seen, heard, loved, and validated. Just like we all do. I have also learned that in order to create real shifts in the culture of our institutions we must lead with our hearts and create space to learn, understand, and connect with how race and racism functions in all of our lives.

Why do you do this work?

I do this work for all of those who came before me. Those I know, and those I don’t. For every person who believed that we can be better than what we are and relentlessly stood up in the face of injustice. I also do this work for every child that will enter our public school system who deserves to be seen, listened to, believed in, and loved. Our kids and families are at the center of all of the work that I do and I am unwavering when it comes to doing all that it takes to better serve them. 

What do you believe?

I believe that our kids deserve better and that we have a responsibility to do better.

I believe that through love, compassion, and community we collectively have the power to create authentic and meaningful educational experiences for our youth. 

I believe that our kids are more capable and able than they are given credit for.

I believe that we must interrupt the predictable patterns of disparities in education.

I believe that this work starts within ourselves and we must choose-in everyday.

What is a question that guides your work?

What would it look like to do things differently and to live in possibility?