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Embracing Differences: Dana Kramaroff talks the Importance of Identity in the Classroom

Image from book event

“As we’re getting our students to write, one of the ways we can inspire them is to have them think about the ways in which they are different,” says Dana Kramaroff, acclaimed author of The Do More Club. 

On Wednesday, April 3, Cedar Crest College’s Education Department & Cressman Library hosted Kramaroff to discuss teaching the youth of today, tackling difficult topics in the classroom, and her writing journey. 

Kramaroff is an educator, a writer, a mom, but at the core of her identity she’s a Jewish woman. The importance of layers to identity is something she demonstrates and teaches to her young students, encouraging them to embrace every part of themselves – especially those initially unseen.  

Identity and acceptance are not just words to Kramaroff, they’re also a priority echoed in The Do More Club. The novel, written entirely in verse, follows a young Jewish boy in the wake of an antisemitic attack on his middle school. Rather than letting hatred shame him into silence, he starts a ‘do more’ club to spread kindness and make a positive difference in his community.  

Outside of her personal experience, Kramaroff was inspired by the Jewish philosophy Tzedakah, which centers around doing kind things for people. The highest form of Tzedakah is doing something kind for somebody else without knowing who’s receiving that kind act, and without them knowing you performed it.  

This ideology is present throughout The Do More Club, as well as Kramaroff’s teachings. She imparts this wisdom onto upcoming educators, encouraging them to integrate a culture of kindness into their classrooms. The philosophy is perhaps best illustrated by an activity the audience participated in, which included writing affirmations and compliments on sticky notes and placing them in public spaces.

In line with her philosophies and novel, Kramaroff gave advice to aspiring educators in a segment aptly dubbed, ‘Do More of This.’ She suggests breaking down barriers between students, not just during the first week of school, but throughout the year. She also demonstrated several activities that help create a comfortable environment for students to be their authentic selves in. 

“One of the things I learned very early online when I was studying to be a teacher was from the author Sandra Cisneros,” says Kramaroff, “One of the things she said was, ‘write about what makes you different.’ That was such a powerful message for me as a teacher and as a person.” 

“Kids feel different in so many ways, and it was important for me to write a book where, no matter how someone feels in their life, they’re able to see themselves reflected in the pages of a book.”