Serving up empathy with Avondale/ Sirviendo empatía con Avondale



When we say we want to help create change within educational settings, we truly mean all facets of education, even the areas that many don’t typically think about when the word “education” comes up.

On August 3, we took a trip to the Avondale District Office to bring the power of a design thinking approach to the lovely people that make up the Nutrition Services staff throughout the Avondale school district. Even though we have done similar workshops in the past, we were incorporating a new element into the mix: a sprinkle of Spanish… una pizca de Español. We conducted our first bilingual session and saying it was exciting is an understatement!

The design thinking approach we take makes it a point to start with relationship-building and empathy, and this time we were able to connect more deeply and be empathetic by using languages that our whole audience felt the most comfortable with.

As we ran through a design sprint to identify challenges that affect the Nutrition staff and brainstorm solutions, I was able to sit at different tables and converse with people in their native language. It not only made me feel like I was home, but it also gave me the opportunity to truly learn what the day in the life of a Nutrition Services staff member looks like.

As I continued speaking Spanish with them, some of the staff members warmed up to me and started sharing their stories. I appreciated that they felt comfortable enough to tell me a little about themselves, where they came from, the struggles they face outside of work, and the inside jokes that they shared among each other. It made me not only appreciate them for all their hard work within the school district but also as human beings.

Empathy (noun): the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s not just a noun; it’s an action, a feeling, a connection, un sentido bien profundo entre humanos– and needed throughout education. My challenge to you is to never forget that schools are not just made up of students, teachers and administrators. There are more people who help a school run, including the Nutrition Services staff. They may not be at the forefront, but they are there. They too are contributing to the lives of students in their own way as caring and empathetic human beings, humanos compasivos y empáticos.