Joan Giovannini

At Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA, I have been fortunate to teach a course entitled EDU 113:  Children, Family, Schools, and Community.  My students are interested in the field of Child and Family Studies, often talking about career pathways as a Child Life Specialist, Early Childhood Educator, Out-of-School-Time Coordinator, School Counselor, or Family Engagement Coordinator.  Each semester that I teach this course, I am reminded about the immediate need to share an understanding of culturally sustaining collaboration that strips down hierarchies between children, family, schools, and communities and, instead, centers around a common framework of the whole child.

Children, Families, Schools, and Communities is introductory text in the field of Child and Family Studies.  It provides a lens for understanding the evolving definition of “family” through socially constructed and ecological theory frameworks.   It promotes strategies for culturally sustaining and deeply collaborative relationships between families, schools, and communities through the use of home-grown advocacy strategies based on community-driven data.  Children, Families, Schools, and Communities is an adapted OER text from Rebecca Laff’s and Wendy Ruiz’s Child, Family, and Community.


About the Author(s)

I am an Educator, Instructional Designer, and Researcher committed to educational equity and strategies of Universal Design for Learning. I specialize in teaching coursework in education policy, inclusionary practice, Universal Design for Learning, and culturally responsive pedagogy.

I began my career as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer, working as a Teacher and Technology Coordinator at an alternative GED program. From there, I moved into community-based work in the field of out-of-school time. And, from there, I began my career in the community college system where I worked as an out-of-school-time coordinator, TRiO Student Support Services Director, Grant Manager, Education Faculty, and Department Chair of Education. Those early professional experiences provided me with insight about the role of Youth Development, trauma-informed teaching, and family-school partnerships for effective pre-service teacher training. I currently work as the Associate Director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship at Springfield College where I focus on Instructional Design and digital pedagogy.

I am thankful for chapter contributors, including Dr. Sara Scribner, Assistant Professor of Special Education at Springfield College, and Brianna Dickens, Associate Director of the Academic Success Center:  Disability and Accessibility Services at Springfield College for lending their voices and expertise.  Dr. Sara Scribner holds a PhD in Special Education, Disability Studies from the Syracuse University School of Education.  She works extensively as an advocate for families of children with exceptionalities and is considered an expert in training teachers on inclusive practices.  Brianna Dickens is finishing up a doctorate in Special Education.


I am grateful to the Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL) grant initiative through the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education that supports OER work.  I thank Sarah Gilleman, Professor of English at Holyoke Community College, for her ongoing partnership in the development of Learning Communities that ask students to think critically about the social construct of disability in schools and for her time in peer editing this text.  I extend appreciation to Glenn Yarnell, Jr., licensed English as a Second Language teacher and middle/high school instructor at Libertas Academy Charter School in Springfield, MA, for his commitment to holistic family partnerships in the school environment and for his time in peer editing this text.

Springfield-Agawam Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

I acknowledge that here, we stand on Indigenous land, known to the original Algonkian Indian (Native American/Indigenous) inhabitants as “Agawam,” or “Akawaham.” The Indigenous name for this place is a locative term that roughly translates to “low-lying marshy lands,” describing a large region along both sides of the Kwinitekw (now called the Connecticut River) from present-day Enfield, Connecticut to the Holyoke Range. For at least 10,000 years, since the last era of glaciation, the Agawam people engaged in trade, diplomacy, and kinship with other regional Indigenous people, most notably: the Quaboag to the East; the Podunk to the South; the Woronoco to the West; and the Nonotuck, Pocumtuck, and Sokoki to the North.

During the 1630s, when Agawam leaders invited English colonial settlers to build a small settlement here, they attempted to preserve, in written deeds, Indigenous cartographies and rights to hunt, fish, plant, and live on tribal lands. When diplomatic relations failed, the Agawam people were decimated and dispersed as a direct result of colonial deceit, disease, and warfare. Although the survivors sought refuge with other Native communities across the northeast, very few direct descendants of the Agawam people live in Springfield today.

I acknowledge, however, that many Indigenous nations, from the territory we now call “southern New England,” still survive and still exercise sovereignty. I acknowledge, in particular, these contemporary Indigenous nations: the Nipmuc to the East; the Wampanoag and Narragansett to the Southeast; the Mohegan, Pequot, and Schaghticoke to the South; the Mohican to the West; and the Abenaki to the North, among many others.  Recognizing that the entirety of the North American continent constitutes territory considered to be original Indigenous homelands, I respect the sovereignty of these and hundreds of other Native American Indigenous nations that survive today and I pledge to support the rights of these nations and the interests of Indigenous peoples.

Pronunciation Guide:

Abenaki [a-ben-a-kee]

Agawam [aa-gah-wahm]

Akawaham [ah-kah-wa-hahm]

Algonkian [al-gone-kee-uhn]

Kwinitekw [kwin-eh-tek-wuh]

Mohegan [moh-he-gahn]

Mohican [moh-hee-kuhn]

Narragansett [nare-uh-gann-sett]

Nipmuc & Nipmuck [nip-muck]

Nonotuck [non-oh-tuck]

Pequot [pee-kwaht]

Pocumtuck [poe-come-tuck]

Podunk [poe-dunk]

Schaghticoke [scat-ti-coke]

Sokoki [soh-koh-kee]

Quaboag [qua-bog]

Wampanoag [wamp-ah-nawg]

Woronoco [wore-oh-no-co]

This land acknowledgement was written by Margaret M. Bruchac (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania) & Laurel Davis-Delano (Professor of Sociology, Springfield College).  It can be found at






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