Skip to main content


A Journey Towards Being a Culturally Responsive and Emotionally Resilient Educator

By Veronica Bernacki ’23

Continuous learning is key as an educator, particularly when it comes to self-awareness and exploration as dimensions of effective teaching. It is about helping the person cultivate a genuine curiosity of connection. Through the University of Dayton Teacher Education in London program, and Common Academic Program Diversity & Social Justice (EDT 340: Educating Diverse Student Populations in Inclusive Settings), I was able to work on both competencies and was extended beyond my comfort zone. That included the confrontation of inner insecurities and biases, as well as new and different surrounding perspectives. This education, centered around diversity, inclusion, and trauma-informed practice in a new place, gifted me with a more interculturally effective teaching approach.london2.jpgPictured above, is the beautiful city of Bath, England. It is known for its Roman-built Bath House. We took a train West of London to see these bathhouses and the historic architecture. Traveling has always been something I have enjoyed and feel privileged that I am able to do it. I believe that self-awareness and personal growth are integral parts of traveling as your world is constantly changing. The scenery, routines, people, languages, and culture are ever-adapting when you are traveling places in short intervals of time. Instinctually, I often felt prompted to become more self-aware in each moment, in order to improve our collective experiences. Assessing personal strengths and weaknesses of my own can be difficult, but necessary to achieve a balance between meeting my needs and helping others. Something I noticed about myself is the inner drive to make the most of our time. So, when an opportunity opened for a free period in our day, I opted to hike up the surrounding hills of the bath to find out what we could see.

While hiking, we realized our path was much steeper than expected. A bit caught off guard and unprepared, I noticed myself beginning to comfort myself and others. I would keep checking my phone to see how much longer or saying “proud of you guys” as we walked up. The views began to become more spectacular and I began to surrender. london3.jpgLetting go of the anticipation and tiredness, I practiced gratitude and enjoyed the moments on the way up. I believe that this tactic is a result of self-awareness and speaks to the value of practicing self-reflection. For instance, had I continued to check my phone, complain, and harp on the negative feelings about hiking, I wouldn’t have been able to really experience and enjoy the beauty of my  surroundings. Reflecting on this knowledge helped me pursue a better relationship and outlook on my environment, as well as helped me strengthen relationships with my  peers, who I might add, are also shaping their own individual experiences. I enjoyed hearing and seeing what all of my group thought of the hike, what they found beautiful and what they were feeling. It is an important reminder that we perceive the same things, often through different lenses which adds to the value of life and enriches traveling.

Pictured below is the facade of the castle that was at the top of the hike, named “Sham Castle”.london4.jpg

Part of continuous learning, exploration is a driving force to learn more about things that don’t provide you comfort and, instead, be open to new and different experiences. Exposure to ideas, values, beliefs, and being challenged out of your comfort zone are some of the most valuable learning experiences when it comes to personal growth. One experience among many on this trip that sparked my interest in exploration was visiting a mosque as part of our “Places of Worship” assignment—a course activity that proved to be one of the most memorable and impactful experiences. Prompted with visiting and comparing two different places of worship, we headed first to the London Central Mosque.london6.jpgTo begin with, I want to acknowledge the support system I had while venturing on this journey. Two peers I met on the trip, and at this point were becoming friends, were so influential in easing any anxiety I had. Relationship development, another intercultural competency, was not only a good practice in maintaining a good mood and experience but added value to reflection and knowledge. By having a support system, I was more confident and able to step into a space that I was unfamiliar with.london7.jpgAs we approached the mosque, we were greeted with a beautiful courtyard. We walked through it not knowing what to expect, and after approaching the door, we were warmly welcomed by a pious man who invited us in and provided us with a hijab in order to enter. Our visit was around the time of Prayer. We sat respectfully behind and observed what the ritual entailed. After the prayers and a warm welcome, we spent over an hour with him learning about Islam and its practice. I was so intrigued by his great storytelling and honored that he was willing to share so openly and so quickly. We learned about the various similarities between Islam and Christianity, dimensions I was not aware of before. It made me wonder how the realizations of such similarities promote negative or positive assumptions or increase understanding among groups. We also were prompted to think about the intersections of religion and culture, and the relationship between gender and religion.london8.jpg

The visit to the mosque was a deeply meaningful learning experience. It inspired me to be more curious about different faiths, traditions and religions, and acknowledge the importance of storytelling and sharing knowledge. While I was apprehensive at first to begin exploring because I didn’t want to disrespect customs unintentionally or invade a sacred space, EDT 340 as a CAP Diversity and Social Justice course provided us the opportunity to reflect internally on our positionality and perspective. With  that in mind, and while being open to following necessary customs, I recognized that it is better to begin and try to educate myself rather than avoid a possibly uncomfortable situation.

Our time in London equipped me with new tools and resources for learning how to be more culturally responsive as well as emotionally resilient. As I fondly look back on these moments of personal growth and development, I intend to teach art by modeling self-awareness and exploration.


Veronica Bernacki ’23 is an Art Education student at the University of Dayton.

Previous Post

Summer 2022 CAP DSJreads

Looking for Diversity and Social Justice readings? Here’s a list of books crowdsourced by CAP DSJ faculty, and published in collaboration with University of Dayton Libraries, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center, Global and Intercultural Affairs Center, and the Diversity ILG Working Group. 

Read More
Next Post

Ed.D. Program Graduates First Cohort

Thirty-nine members of the inaugural cohort of the EdD Program in Leadership for Organizations recently completed their dissertation in practice defense. The graduating students convened on campus on July 21st and 22nd for the First Annual Leadership in Organizations Scholars' Conference. This in-person event was the first opportunity for cohort members to meet one another in person.
Read More