Season 5, Episode 9 of the FocusED School Leadership Podcast with Guest Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera

by | Mar 8, 2024 | 0 comments

6 min read

Creating a Culture of Equity in Schools with Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera

This is Season 5, Episode 9 of FocusED, and it features our guest, Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera. Don’t miss what Dr. Buchanan-Rivera says about amplifying student voice, power and inequities in schools, making learning joyous…and much more.


Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera Brings a Tons of Experience to FocusED Listeners

Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera has served as a teacher, principal of an international magnet school, director of curriculum, and director of equity and inclusion in her 17 years as an educator. 

She is currently a DEI project specialist and adjunct professor in the College of Education at Butler University and consults through her business, EBR Educational Consulting, LLC. 

Dr. Buchanan-Rivera’s research centers on identity-affirming environments. She completed a doctoral degree at Indiana State University in 2017, where she developed an instrument to measure inclusivity in classroom environments. She has written award-winning publications, and her work has been featured in Education Week, Edutopia, Educational Leadership Magazine (ASCD), K-12 Dive, educational journals, and national podcasts. 

In April 2020, she was recognized as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Education at Butler University due to her contributions to the field on a local and national level. Her first book, Identity Affirming Classrooms: Spaces that Center Humanity has spread her reach and consulting work internationally. In 2023, she won the Arnold Mickens Black Excellence in Leadership Award, and we invite you to follow her on X @ericabrivera.

FocusED Show Notes with Erica Buchanan-Rivera

Erica started the conversation about her own experiences in school where the educators had good intentions, but those intentions didn’t result in an inclusive environment. In fact, none of her teachers or school leaders were people of color. 

She aims to amplify student voices, which she does throughout her text. Students don’t just talk about their trauma, but they identify opportunities to support all students in schools. In many cases, all we need to do is to listen to the students. 

Dr. Buchanan-Rivera breaks down what it means to talk about “culture” in schools. We’re talking about “the ways of being” in schools, which includes the roles of power and inequities that exist within schools. 

She says that there’s no real right or wrong way to amplify student voices but that the key is to ask students about their experiences in schools and the ways that we can improve the environment. Listen to what she says about her own listening tours. 

Once we listen to our students, we should build what they say into our strategic plans for school improvement. ~ Erica Buchanan-Rivera 

Joe asks about general threads in what Erica finds when she talks to students about their experiences in school. One common thread is that students want to know how they’re doing in school–they are curious to receive more feedback. 

Just like adults, kids want to know about their strengths and areas for improvement, and they often don’t get that from school. ~ Erica Buchanan-Rivera 

Erica tells us that we can drive change to a more joyous environment by unpacking our own belief systems. Do we truly embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in action? Do we believe that all students can learn? Are we treating students like humans? 

She calls for equity audits as a fresh set of eyes on what teaching and learning really feel like in our schools–tools that assess systems. 

As administrators, we often learn to manage dysfunction rather than learning to clean house. ~ Erica Buchanan-Rivera 

Don’t miss what she says about outcomes that indicate that our effort in this space is working. 

Erica says we need more support for administrators on leading change, having critical conversations, and growing as equity warriors. A needed book title: Navigating the DEI Space for School Leaders

Accountability should be seen as an act of love. ~ Erica Buchanan-Rivera  

Erica ended by talking about the areas in which she would like to grow as a school leader–helping principals navigate DEI successfully. 

Books that Erica Buchanan-Rivera Mentions on FocusED

Punished for Dreaming by Bettina Love

Leading Your School Toward Equity by Dwayne Chism 

All About Love by Bell Hooks 


Related Content from TheSchoolHouse302

Check out our very popular interview with Principal Kafele. 


Thanks for listening to FocusED, an educational leadership podcast brought to you by TheSchoolHouse302 @, where we publish free leadership content. Go to the site, subscribe, and you’ll get all of our content sent directly to your email. 

FocusED is your educational leadership podcast where our mission is to dissect a particular focus for teachers and school leaders so that you can learn to lead better and grow faster in your school or district. Let us know who you would like to hear from next. 


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