= Learning about differences with the goal of understanding one another
Equity = Ensuring every individual in our community is set up for success and is met where they are
Inclusion = All members of our community feeling a sense of belonging at Athena
It is our goal to create as inclusive an environment as possible for all of our community members, including all facets of identity. Our goals in embracing all identities are to create awareness of, respect for, and an understanding of, as well as to give language to the various facets of identity in our efforts to prepare the children for the global community and to live a life of fairness, justice, and acceptance. We are extremely conscious of what is appropriate for our various age groups. 
We do not allow othering, excluding, shaming, or bullying behavior of any kind, by anyone, towards any other human, child or adult, for any reason. We practice kindness, acceptance, respect for difference, sharing of feelings, and peaceful direct communication. (Since our children are all in the First Plane of Development, they do not have the brain development yet to bully or premeditate shame to others.)


Athena Montessori Academy is committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. When you join our community, you are not only accepted for who you are, you are valued and celebrated for who you are. This commitment is to our community as a whole, from those who serve on our team to the families and children who make up our student body. As a learning organization, we lean into hard and often uncomfortable work in our commitment to be our best selves, which means we budget funds each year for professional development and parent education, including professional support and education in the DEI arena. Specific to our DEI work, we view early childhood education through an anti-bias lens.
As a school community committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work, Athena recognizes and adheres to the four goals of anti-bias education:

I) Identity: Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities. 
II) Diversity: Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences; and deep caring human connections.
III) Justice: Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts. 
IV) Activism: Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions. 

(These goals are defined by Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen-Edwards, leading educators, peace activists, and authors.)
At Athena, we understand that to change the world we must first change ourselves. The faculty and families of our community are stakeholders in this transformative work. The ultimate goal is not only a school, but a world in which all children can flourish and all families belong. 
Our ask is that if you choose to join our community, you not only align with our values around this work, but you are also willing to participate in the furtherance of this mission.
We are committed to using inclusive terms and gender-neutral pronouns when writing about our students in community messages or documents, such as on this website. If you find any limiting or exclusionary language in our communications, please let us know, and we will update accordingly.


Some of the many facets of identity include, but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, family make-up, gender identity, ability, religion/spirituality, nationality, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, body type, literacy, accessibility or inaccessibility to higher education, neurotypical vs. neurodivergent, job status, first language, and citizenship. Please see the boxes below for how we think about various aspects of identity as it relates to our students. 
Do We Teach Identity?
Our approach is not to “teach” facets of identity, but rather foster acceptance and normalization by creating “windows” and “mirrors” for the children. It is important for children to see people like themselves and families like theirs in books, materials, and photos in the classroom. It is also important for them to see people different from themselves and families different from their own. It is important for children to know they can be whoever they want to be in life and that they can be loved and accepted for exactly who they are. It is also important that children learn to accept and appreciate differences. We are curating a school library that reflects all the different facets of identities and family make-ups to ensure we have a window and a mirror for every student and staff member.
Parent Development:
Our goal is to keep our school website updated with information and resources for families. In the DEI section of our monthly school newsletters, we include educational information, book recommendations, important holidays and dates, and resources. Throughout the year, we provide workshops led by specialists to educate all of us on various topics relevant to parenting and DEI work. 

Ethnicity & Nationality

We empower the children to be able to identify and articulate elements of their culture, such as food, music, family traditions, etc. We define nationality for the children and teach them about how citizens or ethnic groups can be part of political nations. We also talk to children about their skin color and race (more on Race/Racism in the next section). 
We encourage conversations with the children so that we can learn about each other’s cultures to better understand each other. We post photographs in the classroom and read books to the children about cultures that are both represented, and not represented, in our classrooms and school. 
We invite family members to join us in the classroom to teach us about their family culture at Circle and/or at community festivals. We invite families who want to share elements of their culture with us by way of educating us. We are careful not to participate in cultural celebrations that are not our own nor do we participate in cultural appropriation
Cultural appropriation takes place when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way. 

Gender Identity and Expression

Gender identity
and sexual orientation are very different. We don’t “teach” either and are very conscious of what is age-appropriate for our student body. We don’t teach about being cisgendered, non-binary, or transgendered. We do, however, model vocabulary and invite inclusion for each facet of identity, including identities along a continuum of gender. We model inclusion through our language, which creates windows and mirrors for the children. We normalize all the ways that people show up in the world, because all expressions of the self are normal, whether they are binary or non-binary. We have come to understand and embrace the fact that while we are all born with certain reproductive organs, our gender identity can be self-defined, is very personal, and is unique to each individual. It is not our job to tell another person what their gender is or how they should express their gender (implicitly or explicitly). 
Personal pronouns can be another expression of gender identity. Using someone’s chosen pronouns demonstrates respect for them and contributes to creating an inclusive environment. 
Here is more information on why pronouns matter.
Not only do we support questions or curiosity from our students, but we also support the choices of our diverse families and staff members. We have members of our community whose pronouns are “he/him,” “she/her,” “they/them,” and “she/they.” These various pronouns reflect different facets of their own personal gender identity, and we honor and respect those choices and model for the children that there are these different options available to people in the world. 
Gender expression can be different from gender identity, and is also a facet of identity. We allow for exploration that may come from the children, and are careful not to shame any type of curiosity. For example, if a boy wears a dress to school, we normalize it. We may source a photograph of a male-identifying person wearing a dress to hang in the classroom. 
Gender identities and the concept of gender roles develop at a very young age, so young that we know the messages come from marketing and society at first. Children younger than three tell us here at school what is “for boys” and what is “for girls.” From colors to toys, from clothing to nicknames, from games to careers; young children are inundated by messages about who they should be according to our society’s ideas, firmly rooted in the gender binary. We believe it is important to encourage all children to learn and be curious or passionate about any type of career path or life role, and are careful not to inadvertently perpetuate old stereotypical gender roles in our books, photographs, and lessons. 
HERE is an excellent article published by Montessori Life, an American Montessori Society publication, that is in alignment with our philosophy on gender identity.

Physical Ability

We are an inclusive community for all abilities and disabilities. If you see something on campus that restricts access, please bring it to our attention.

Body Acceptance & Positivity

We occasionally hear this age group beginning to label bodies as “good” or “bad,” so part of our goal is to normalize all body types and encourage the children not to pass judgment on others based on differences in appearance.

Race, Racism, & Racial Bias

In September, we begin to talk to the children about melanin
How do we talk about skin tones and melanin with our learners? Our approach is a lot like this Tik-Tok video made by Bill Nye,  just slower and with a Montessori globe instead of a map. We use a globe and show the children that all human beings originate from land near the equator, that all human beings used to live where it is very, very sunny. We all used to have dark skin to protect us from too much sun. We talk about how humans love to move and walk around. Some humans moved far away from the equator, far away from the sunny part of the earth. Those humans got lighter skin to let in more sunlight. Why? How? We introduce the word ‘melanin.’ Melanin is the special stuff inside our bodies that gives color to our skin and hair and eyes. Some people have a lot. Some people have a little.
Here’s why we do it: Identity work is the foundation of Anti-Bias education. Forming a positive self-identity and a true appreciation of the diversity all around us is key to raising equity-minded humans. Those are the first two goals of Anti-Bias education for young children. The third goal is justice. Children in the Primary program reach the third goal of Anti-Bias education at different points in their development. Before they leave Athena, every Primary child is ready for books and discussions about Justice. Juneteenth, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cesar Chavez Day are holidays during which school is closed. We educate the learners about these days. We are honest with children that people are treated differently because of their skin color. We are honest with children about unfairness and injustice. 
This is a short read from the Washington Post linking to some of the research on the misconception that some parents have that their children don’t notice race unless it is pointed out to them:  What White Parents Get Wrong About Raising Antiracist Kids - And How to Get it Right
Here is a famous TED talk on being “color brave”, by Mellody Hobson, who is in an interracial marriage (married to George Lucas), and who has a daughter with her White husband. She understands first-hand what it is like to have Black and White family members. She is also the CEO of a Fortune 500 company: Color Blind vs. Color Brave.
At Athena, we listen to and learn from PoGM (People of the Global Majority). We listen to and learn from the lived experiences of BIPoC people (Black, Biracial, Indigenous, People of Color). Two author-educators, both former Montessori teachers, whose knowledge we share and cite often are Britt Hawthorne and Tiffany Jewell. We urge you to benefit from their writings and teachings as well. Britt is the author of Raising Antitracist Children and Tiffany published This Book Is Anti-Racist.  Both books are excellent, simple, straightforward guides. 
These are two videos related to how we approach DEI topics with this age group: Part of the Sesame Street Town Hall from the summer of 2020 is Elmo and his dad Louie talking about racism and protests. Another part of the Sesame Street Town Hall is this video for parents about how to talk to children about racism.

Sexual Orientation

We don’t teach or talk about sex, sexual orientation, or sexual relationships with this age group. We do talk and read about different family make-ups and how some children have two moms, two dads, one mom, one dad, a mom and a dad, adopted parents, non-binary parents, foster parents, grandparents, extended family living together, etc. We normalize all types of families and all types of relationships. 
Modeling language might look like saying: “Bob is getting married to his girlfriend" and "Jane is getting married to their partner.” We see benefits in learning about other people’s identities, including what they celebrate, what they eat, where they are from, how they identify, what pronouns they use, or what kind of family they have. We want to be careful that we do not inadvertently harm a child by normalizing a certain type of family make-up that does not look like their own. 

Neurotypical & Neurodivergent

All learners and all brains are welcome at Athena. We tailor the curriculum to meet the child; not the child to meet the curriculum.

Glossary of Terms

To learn more about vocabulary for various facets of identity, please check out our Glossary of Terms.  We acknowledge that language is a living thing, and it changes over time. Terms used to marginalize groups of people are sometimes reclaimed by the marginalized groups and brought back into the lexicon (“Queer,” for example). While we do our best to use inclusive language and current terms, we may publish something that we find necessary to go back and update at a later time. We invite your feedback and welcome your knowledge of any terms we should be aware of using or deleting. This work belongs to all of us, and it is a lifelong journey of learning and unlearning together. 

Athena Montessori Academy

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my son’s education. The loving guides at Athena taught him so much more than reading and writing– he’s learned how to take care of himself and those around him while navigating the social community of his classroom. I feel these life skills will serve him well as he graduates and enters first grade in the fall!”
- Rebecca O’Hara (Child now attending Eanes Elementary)