Episode 133 – Unstoppable Teacher, DEI Consultant and Coach with Paige Riggins
During our many episodes of Unstoppable Mindset, we have had the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of people who have, in one way or another, been involved with the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The reason it is fun and relevant to speak with all these guests is that each one brings to our studio their own personal and specific life experiences. Often our guests came to the DEI field as adults and some knew earlier in life that they wanted to promote equity.
Our guest this time, Paige Riggins brings her own very interesting life take on DEI. She was born in Oakland California and was raised in South Carolina. She will tell us about her upbringing and about how she searched to discover herself. Paige is definitely a life explorer and she will discuss this without hesitation with us.
Paige, like so many guests before her, offers us the benefit of her knowledge and lessons about how to live and grow each day. I think you will find her observations thought-provoking and useful. We have a good discussion about her life and experiences as a teacher especially during the time of the pandemic. Paige uses her expertise to discuss topics like race and disability issues. She also will tell you about the business she joined when she left teaching.
About the Guest:
Paige Riggins is an experienced DEI Consultant & Coach specializing in organizational development, systems analysis, project management, capacity-building (training & workshops), and facilitation.
Driven by balance, community, and growth, she takes pride in building a collective of practitioners who incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their personal and professional practice. She does this by leveraging her change management, cross-functional team building, curriculum development, coaching, consulting, data analysis, program management, restorative conversations, and evaluation skills to strengthen her practice.
As an experienced DEI Consultant & Coach, her goals include consulting through her consulting firm, Culture of Equity Consulting, LLC, and the continued practice of coaching and consulting with individual practitioners, organizations, and companies looking to move DEI initiatives forward with strategic and specialized support.
In addition to her primary job functions, she has also been recognized as a Courageous Conversations About Race Practitioner for her exemplary commitment to enlightening others inter-racially and intra-racially regarding DEI.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Columbia College, SC; a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from Portland University; and a dual certification in teaching for South Carolina and Maryland with an Advanced Professional Certificate.
She was also awarded the Impact Spotlight Award for Teach For America, South Carolina for her efforts in the classroom.
“Any person in this work is only as good as their capacity to learn continuously.”
Ways to connect with Paige:
Professional Profile – https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/paigeariggins
Website – www.cultureofequityllc.com
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Hi This is Michael Hingson. And you are once again listening to unstoppable mindset. I’m really honored today to have Paige A Riggins we got to find out about the A. But Paige is a dei coach. She has been very much involved in diversity, equity and inclusion and helping in a variety of different ways in that environment. And I don’t want to give much away because I want her to tell us all about it. But we’re really excited. We’ve been working toward making this happen for a while. I’m glad we finally did it. So Paige, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Paige A Riggins 01:55
Thank you so much for having me, Michael,
Michael Hingson 01:57
we’re really honored that you are here. And I’d love it if you could start out by telling us just kind of a little bit about you growing up and starting out and all that kind of stuff, things that kind of give us some background,
Paige A Riggins 02:13
of course. So I was born in Oakland, California, raised in South Carolina, and as spent a lot of my time reading books, writing short stories in class and just really trying to get a sense of self. But of course, in the teenage way, where I am stressing my mom out probably every other day. Which led me to really question like, whether I wanted to even get into, you know, being a teacher, which is what I ended up doing. And so a lot of what leads me now is just how I kind of spent my childhood like exploring new things, learning new things, and like trying to figure out what I wanted to do in this life, which you know, that changes every other day, which is probably just as common for like other people, but my main route to just South Carolina, being around family, being able to just kind of chill and rest and relax and be successful, but like, in my own way, and just kind of marching to the beat of my own drum as much as I can.
Michael Hingson 03:35
Do you think that makes you a risk taker? I mean, you like to explore and all that does, do you think that means that you you do risky things or that you are are much of a person that takes risks to try to discover information and new knowledge?
Paige A Riggins 03:50
You know, that question is very interesting, because I it sounds like I’m a risk taker. And there are a lot of times when I am trying to think a lot more than I do. And so when when people hear about my decisions or my advancements, they’re just like, oh, wow, like that was really brave with you. When actually I was probably thinking about it for at least six months to a year before I even brought it up. And so I guess because I’m still taking the step it it is me taking a risk, but it’s a risk that is like chaotic, but but ordered. So that I’m still having the risk, but I’m also still kind of like analyzing all the things that have to be true for this to go the way I want it to or at least as close as to the way that I want it to.
Michael Hingson 04:53
Well, you thought about it a lot as you just said you thought for six months or a year so it could Still very well be a risk, but it’s something that you thought about and thought about doing. And just didn’t generally leap into things. Have you ever just not thought about something and done it? Or do you really like to think about things a lot before you do it? Because I think that makes a difference. In, you know, answering the question, in both cases, their risks, but you’ve really thought about a lot of what you do before you do it.
Paige A Riggins 05:29
You know, that’s a good question I, the things that I did not really think about, and I just kind of did, when I was like, getting a nose piercing, getting a wrist tattoo. Those were the things that I had to feel it in order to do it. And when I felt it, I got up, made the appointment, or I did a walk in and I just went to go do it. And so I think when it’s things that that I approach with my gut, those are the things that I just kind of go and I just do, because I feel it in my heart that this is like, this is the moment
Michael Hingson 06:14
you trust your intuition and your instincts. I do
Paige A Riggins 06:17
that leads a lot of how I handle things. And it really leads even the way that I think the way that I do my routines because I try to go by what feels good for me.
Michael Hingson 06:35
Do you spend part of every day kind of thinking about what happened that day? Do you do introspection sorts of things to really analyze your your world on a regular basis?
Paige A Riggins 06:49
I do it at times. And there are times when introspection leads to overthinking for me. And so I have to I have to like meter. When is the point of no return where I’m going to get into overthinking and what is actual introspection for me. And so I usually have to do that reflection, like on the car ride home. Once I get in my house, I have to just let it go, no matter what it wasn’t. And just so you know what this happened? This is how it was handled, or this is unresolved right now. And it’s okay. Let me go light some candles do something else.
Michael Hingson 07:33
Yeah. And I think that’s kind of what I’m getting at is that you can look at things and decide what happened, what worked, what didn’t work. With some point, you do have to give it up. You can’t beat yourself up over it, because that’s not going to help anybody, especially you. Oh, no,
Paige A Riggins 07:52
I can’t. I used to be that person where you know, if something wasn’t perfectly the way that I wanted it to be? I would just kind of obsess over it. And then one day I said actually, it doesn’t really matter how it went because I am a different person from the other person. And if we had a misunderstanding, or or if we just like, you know, did not agree. It’s actually okay. And if that person wants to talk about it more, I’ll be happy to. But I can’t obsess over either. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 08:28
So you said you were born in Oakland, good for you. When did you move from Oakland.
Paige A Riggins 08:33
So it’s so interesting, being born in Oakland, because my mom she was in the Air Force. And so that’s where she was station. And we only stay there until I was about three years old. And she ended up getting stationed in Italy and I don’t remember much of it. But she’s just like, you were able to to Learn Tagalog you were able to, like be around so many different cultures. And then once she got out of the military, we moved to South Carolina. And that’s where I was raised. So it’s like OPlan is is a part of my roots. But the biggest part of my roots in South Carolina, I would love to go to Oakland someday. And just to kind of like, be where I was born. But yeah, that’s, that’s the story of like Oakland and a little bit about Italy, too.
Michael Hingson 09:28
I was just gonna ask if he had been back to Oakland, so you haven’t really gone back to visit?
Paige A Riggins 09:34
No, no, I have not. I don’t know what’s what’s holding me back. I think that I have to think like, there was anything that I was overthinking. It’s probably going back to Oakland.
Michael Hingson 09:47
Well just think if you’re in Oakland, you’re not far from San Francisco, which means you’re not far from Guillain Barre, squirt Ghiradelli square and chocolate just pointing that out.
Paige A Riggins 09:56
You know, I’m not gonna lie chocolate chocolate. To me one of the things that is my kryptonite, I need it. And I should not always have it, but it’s, it’s perfect.
Michael Hingson 10:08
It’s always Bowden sourdough bread. So we can come we can come up with a lot of different options, you know. But, yeah, it’s I, I lived for 12 years in Novato. So we were up in Northern California, we were in the well, the, what would be north of San Francisco up in Marin County. So, however, been to East Bay and Oakland a number of times and had a close friend who lived there. We just passed last year. But yeah. So I hope you do come back and spend some time touring around Northern California and having a little fun, the culture is great.
Paige A Riggins 10:51
You know what? I’m going to keep that in mind when I’m thinking about trips.
Michael Hingson 10:56
Well, it’s worth doing. Well, so you lived in South Carolina. And when did you leave South Carolina.
Paige A Riggins 11:05
I left South Carolina back in 2021. I was there from the time that I was around for went to school there or K through 12. Even did my undergrad there. And I started working there as a teacher as well. So I my roots run deep when it comes to South Carolina. Are you a lot for me to leave?
Michael Hingson 11:29
Yeah, well, what What made you do that
Paige A Riggins 11:33
I want to change. Being a teacher is not the easiest. And during the pandemic, it was especially hard. And I wanted, I just realized that things were not as equitable as I thought that they were or that I wanted them to be. And so it was either stay in that same place and not really be able to make a change in the way that you want or go somewhere where you can get the learning and then at some point, come back.
Michael Hingson 12:02
So you did your undergraduate Did you? Have you done graduate work?
Paige A Riggins 12:07
I have I went to Concordia University. And I studied curriculum and instruction. So I had my Masters of Education. Oh, cool. Yes, it was it was rigorous. But I loved it.
Michael Hingson 12:21
So you know, I heard a report this morning that said that because of the pandemic, students are generally close to probably one grade level behind where they really ought to be. I don’t even remember who was reporting that. But do you think that’s true? Or how do we address that? Because this kind of thing can happen again, how do we not allow that to
Paige A Riggins 12:42
happen? Well, I can definitely say that it is true, even when I was a teacher, just kind of seeing, especially because kids are their own persons, like they are growing adults, and even outside of being grown adults, their kids, and so they have their own emotions, they’re going through the same emotional roller coasters that we were when the pandemic started. And as it as it continues now. And so I saw a lot of loss when it came to reading levels. And for me, one of the ways that I started trying to support students is really just started to listen, which I did not always do. Try not to hold kids accountable for the fact that they are still learning how to handle their their emotions, which is a skill that even some adults don’t quite have down pack yet. And just kind of listening and like, you know, seeing like, Hey, how are you doing today? If they were having a bad day, asking them like, you know, hey, take a breather, walk down the hallway, come back and just trying to get the social and emotional learning in there, where it would like help them to learn how to cope with those emotions and to name them for themselves. So my given autonomy where I could within the classroom.
Michael Hingson 14:18
Yeah. And it is a challenge because kids are learning so much or need to learn so much. My wife was a teacher for 10 years, I have a secondary teaching credential, but I never taught in a school although I think I’ve done a lot of sort of professional teaching in other ways, but I’ve never taught in school she did for 10 years. She loved the little kids she liked for a second and like third graders she likes third graders especially she said they were still young enough to really learn and older enough to start to really process as opposed to older kids who are much more set in their ways.
Paige A Riggins 14:56
I will say middle School is middle school, just educators are a special kind of people, because we tend to have to work with students who are like really trying to figure out who am I? And that question is just as hard as algebra one just as hard as Advanced Grammar when it comes to like what kids are expected to learn. And I would say, Yeah, middle school, it’s like, it’s so funny that she said that, because because I’ve met a lot of students who were not necessarily set in their ways. But they thought that they had to be like their parents, even if it didn’t agree with them. Yeah. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 15:52
Intended to intended to do that. Teaching is is tough. And I think that teachers are so under appreciated on so many levels. And so it tends to be a real, a real challenge. That, oh, yes, all of us have to deal with. And I really get so frustrated sometimes about how people don’t really appreciate what teachers bring. You know, and I’m, I listened to news reports about banning books in classrooms and the kinds of things that will parent should have a say in this. And when you really get down to it, they want to ban books, they haven’t even read, and they’re just listening to what other people said, rather than thinking and processing themselves.
Paige A Riggins 16:41
Oh, I think the most unfortunate thing about teaching and and the pandemic was watching a majority of people via social media, like praise teachers, and then go to really disregarding how teachers felt just as human beings have or to go, and essentially, become essential workers, because they had to educate, they still had to, like, you know, be mandated reporters, they still had to care for themselves and their families, and if they got sick, and then seeing how we’re having what I’ve heard to be called culture wars, when it comes to ban books. And it’s like, you know, really trying to understand, what are you trying to block kids from, that they don’t already know, I have heard some of the most profound opinions on race and gender and society, from students just in an icebreaker question a bell ringer. And it’s like, you want to dampen that and why?
Michael Hingson 17:56
Yeah. What do you think about this whole concept of what we are hearing called critical race theory?
Paige A Riggins 18:06
I think that there’s a big misunderstanding about critical race theory. Because what people see as critical race theory, when it comes to painting white people to be bad people is no, it’s not painting anyone to be bad. It’s examining the actual historical context, and how that disparaged groups of people based on the color of their skin, their socio economic status, and to reduce it to we’re just trying to make a group of people feel bad. It minimizes the reason why we shouldn’t actually have factual information in schools, why we should actually teach students how to critically think about the world as it is, and not just critically think, but question it, because that’s the only reason why we have half the policies, laws and practices that we have now. Because somebody questioned somebody was able to have the access to make a decision or to bring a collective of people together. And it’s like, to minimize children’s abilities to question like, our predecessors did, is essentially just you know, leaving room for one truth to be told.
Michael Hingson 19:28
Yeah. Yeah. And, and it tends to be so misunderstood in so many ways. You know, I’m, I’m amazed that anyone would want to ban a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, having read it a number of times, and hearing the things that people say, but then when you really drill down to haven’t read the book, yet I’m and and the result is they don’t understand anything about what Harper Lee was was saying in the book. And so it’s so unfortunate that we, we tend to not be as thorough at researching things ourselves, we rely on someone. And oh, well, will we trust this person? Oh, we trust that? Well, you know, the reality is that there are a heck of a lot of people who don’t trust this person or that person. And is there a reason for that? We really need to look at things for ourselves, and we don’t as often as we should.
Paige A Riggins 20:42
Yes, and I would agree. Because going straight for like knee jerk reactions when it comes to what you think is like in a book versus skipping over the the entire reason for like, why a book was written, even books that are banned right now deal with anything that is not heteronormative anything that is not outside of the norm in American society. And my question always, when the idea of like betting books comes up is, do you want kids to not be able to identify as their full selves? And if so, why is that while you were able to? So yeah.
Michael Hingson 21:32
And, you know, to, to expand the dimension, which I have done from time to time on this podcast. Very rarely, when we talk about Dei, do we even get into the discussion of disabilities, even though there are more people with disabilities than there are any other minority of if you call women to be a minority, and although there are more women than men, but the reality is, we don’t include them. We don’t include people with disabilities. We don’t have discussions, not to talk about reparations, and other things like that. Let’s talk about how people with disabilities were, are and probably will be treated for some time to come because we’re not in the conversation at all.
Paige A Riggins 22:16
Yes, and I will even say, even living in Baltimore, as it is now, it’s not accessible. My mom, she’s a disabled veteran. And she cannot live in most places in this this city, because her power chair is going to need like, you know, elevator, it’s going to need no steps when you’re entering the building. And even this conversation about culture wars, banning books, limiting how people can identify with historical context, that also leads to minimizing marginalized groups, especially when it comes to ability. And so I agree with you, because even with how we have conversations about equity, just in passing in school districts, a lot of the times, accessibility is not even one of the things that comes up as a concern, even though not all disabilities are even apparent. You can look at somebody and not know what they have going on. And make an assumption that actually minimizes their identity and excludes them from decision making and access.
Michael Hingson 23:43
Yeah, and it has been many years since I first heard this statistic, I’m about to say, and it hasn’t really changed much the unemployment rate among employable people who are blind, and I think it’s appropriate to say who have a, a physical disability is in the 65 to 70% range, even though we have a national unemployment rate of 3.4%, according to the statistics last Friday, and why is that? It isn’t that we can’t work it is that people think we can’t work and they’re not willing to explore, and they don’t like something that’s different from them, which also feeds into the whole race discussion, too. But nevertheless, it’s still the case.
Paige A Riggins 24:30
Yes, I think that especially if people approached things that they do not identify with, with with questioning to understand not just to respond, a lot of what gets minimized when it comes to the different social identities. It would, there will be a space for people to be their full selves, because you know, even when it comes to race, they It’s like, if I’m not the same as you, instead of looking at it as this is an opportunity for me to get another perspective, some people can view it as this is a threat to my personal safety, even when it comes to ability, have half of the the outdated terms half of the outdated laws and policies and practices, minimize a person with disabilities, ability to like access, many of the areas that able bodied people can access, even when it comes down to having conversations having a seat at the table to make decisions about how their livelihood is affected.
Michael Hingson 25:47
Yeah. It’s it’s kind of the nature of the beast. And it shouldn’t be, but we haven’t learned to move beyond that yet, as a society, within this country or anywhere else for that matter. I agree. So are you still teaching in the classroom today?
Paige A Riggins 26:09
No, I am actually doing I’m actually doing equity work, excuse my background noise. I live right by the streets. But I do equity work. And in that equity work, I look at workplace culture and religious identifying what it looks like to implement structures of protection for marginalized identities.
Michael Hingson 26:37
So is this your own business now? Or do you work for someone else do that.
Paige A Riggins 26:41
So I the workplace culture piece, I have my own consulting firm called culture of equity consulting. And then I also work within a school district when it comes to educational equity. When it comes to race.
Michael Hingson 26:59
Well, hopefully we’ll get to help you make an expansion of that and deal with disabilities. But that’s another story that we don’t have to worry about today.
Paige A Riggins 27:09
Look, you’ll have to take that up with my supervisor, I, a lot of the times in school team meetings, we end up talking about intersectionally what happens for students outside of race, because race impacts a lot of students lives. And when you add on ability, socio economic status, gender, nationality, those things shape how a student or a staff member can like navigate throughout the day, starting from like when they leave their home, when they return,
Michael Hingson 27:47
there’s a lot to it.
Paige A Riggins 27:50
It is it’s very multifaceted, very much. It sometimes feels like going down a rabbit hole. information where you start with asking a person one question about how they identify. And then you start asking, Where do you live? How do you get to work or school? What is it like when you are engaging with people outside of your race? What does that bring up for you? And and the question is, can can keep going on, which is both a strength and one of those areas that can stop a conversation because you can learn a lot about a person. And if there is something that clashes with the part of your your identity, that can bring the need for like having some some type of structures of like protection, some type of parameters so that you will care for each other, even if you’re different. Which is the whole point of the big focus on equity anyway,
Michael Hingson 28:57
right? We’re all different in various ways. Sometimes it’s very subtle. And so we don’t tend to pay attention to it, but sometimes it’s significant differences, whether it be race or sexual orientation, or, or disability or ability. And, and some of those terms have to be changed. So I’ve been advocating that we need to recognize a disability isn’t what we think it is. disability isn’t a lack of ability. Some people would say but that’s the word. No. Diversity is supposed to be also celebrating difference and it doesn’t deal with disability. So you know, we can change what words mean. And we ought to do that disability does not mean a lack of ability disability as a characteristic. And I could make a strong case for the fact that you, Joe Biden, and no, let’s come up with some younger politician. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she’s a Republican who gave a speech today Tonight, which I thought was kind of crazy, but that’s my opinion. But nevertheless, all of you have disabilities, your disability is your light dependent lights go out, if you don’t have access to a flashlight or a candle, you’re in a world of hurt or a smartphone. And the reality is that the invention of the electric light bulb covered up that disability for you. And there’s so much technology that allows you to have light pretty much whenever you want. But nevertheless, the disability is still there. So we can make the case that everyone has a disability, and I bet we could come up with other things about any individual that would, from a relative standpoint, or relativity standpoint would make them have a disability over someone else, short people have a disability. Over we have that the top people don’t recognize tall people have a disability that short, people don’t recognize when you’re trying to fit into a crowded airplane seat, for example. There are there are all sorts of things that come up to the level of what we ought to call a disability. But we don’t because we have an outdated definition of what disability really means.
Paige A Riggins 31:14
And I would agree with that. And that’s a really interesting take on how how everyone has some way that like their life is altered, by the way that they are made.
Michael Hingson 31:30
So you’re now working in part in your own business and working with the Department of Education and so on. When do you do most of your work? Do you pretty much keep busy all day? What are you most productive?
Paige A Riggins 31:42
Oh, so I am a morning person through and through. By the time that it is 7pm, the worst part of my brain kindly goes to sleep so I can have time to just relax. I used to be one who would work until 9am and 10pm. But it just wasn’t it wasn’t humanity friendly. And so I had to figure out another way of just honoring myself. And even though like running a business and also working in a school district, and also you know, being a friend, a partner, a sister, a daughter, all of those things, even a dog mom, all of those things require my attention to and they just as as important as the work that I do. So having a balance is a little hard. But that’s usually when I get my work done is like during the day. And by the time that it’s the evening, I tried to make sure that I have some kind of routine in place.
Michael Hingson 32:41
I had a guide dog was my sixth dog, her name was Meryl. And I describe her as a dog with a type A personality, she would not leave if you will work at the office. Even when we were home and the harness was off, which was the time that she could relax, he had to follow me around, she wouldn’t play with the other dogs in the house. And eventually, literally, that lack of ability to relax, stressed her out. So she only got it for about 18 months. And then she just became totally fearful of guiding. And it was uncontrollable. And we had to retire her. And so I hear exactly what you’re saying. I think that it is it can be true for dogs. As much as it is for people. This whole idea of being a workaholic is a real lovely thing to a point. But the reality is if we don’t take time for ourselves, it can be a problem.
Paige A Riggins 33:35
Yes. And I’m so sorry to hear about mero I definitely that was a big part of also why I had to figure out another capacity to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the education field because being a teacher, it really plagued my mental health especially in the fall. Because of course by the time that it’s 530 it is dark. And I am one who like really loves feeling sunlight. I love being able to like walk around and it not being nighttime quite yet especially when the day started and like you know, just very short days and very long nights. And so when I was not really digging into routines, and I was like you know still grading papers at home and lesson planning and never really given time for myself, it caused a constant sense of urgency, a constant sense of needing to work to where I started to feel like I was losing my passion in the profession, which is why I’ve been had to switch over to you don’t need to great papers in the evening. You don’t need to take any work home for the weekend. You do your work. During the week, and whatever’s left will be that when you get back, and it was hard to switch over to that way of being, especially when sense of urgency and constantly doing doing doing is what is applauded in the education field. Do you
Michael Hingson 35:19
do you miss teaching being in the classroom though,
Paige A Riggins 35:22
I miss the children, I miss being able to see children start at one point of development in August, and to come to be a whole different version of themselves by the end and a better version of themselves to for the ones who were at that point. And for the ones who were still questioning, just kind of seeing how they were like navigating life as a child who won’t always have had, like, you know, autonomy, especially in education, where there’s a bunch of like, rules and like policies. And so I missed that I do not miss the red tape on the classroom. And all of the things that came with politics and how you like, you know, respond to kids and parents and other colleagues and your administration. And it was just that, for me, took the joy out of teaching, especially when it was the height of the pandemic. It was, it was a very stressful time. Well, I,
Michael Hingson 36:29
I have always loved being able to visit classrooms. My wife and I volunteered when we moved here to Victorville for our niece, Tracy, who is a kindergarten teacher, she’s now taught over 20 years, she loves kindergarten, and loves being with the kids. Although every year we hear more and more about how some of the kids are having more and more challenges. And some of it comes from parents who did drugs and and disaffected the kids and other things like that. But but she loves kindergarten, she just has a a boatload of fun with it. And we went and volunteered for a few years, and helped. But then, of course, with the pandemic, a lot of things change. So now my wife has passed. So we we don’t anymore. But it’s you know, I hear what you’re saying, though, and the politics is such a problem. I suppose some people would say Yeah, but it’s necessary. Well, I think we should look at how necessary it really is. But I remember some of my teachers, I remember the names of a lot of my teachers and remember some of them very well and the effects that they have had in my life and actually still correspond with some of them, which is really kind of cool. For five years ago, well, it’s five years ago, my gosh, it is it’ll be six in August, but I went to celebrate, we surprised him my high school geometry teacher who came to our wedding and who we’ve stayed in close touch with, went to his 80th birthday, and surprised him his kids were in on it. But I flew into Colorado, and we just totally surprised him. Boy, that was fun.
Paige A Riggins 38:27
Wow, that sounds wonderful. And I’m definitely sorry about your wife. And I’m glad that you all got the chance to be able to engage with young people, especially in their element. I feel like anyone who can teach lower and upper elementary, they have a special place in my heart because then those kids didn’t come to middle school.
Michael Hingson 38:53
Yeah. Well, and now some of the children of some of those kids are in her class. Oh, wow. She was telling us that a few months ago, a few weeks ago, she was telling me about that. That’s pretty funny that she gets to have the kids have some of the kids that she that she taught.
Paige A Riggins 39:16
But see that all goes to impact and being able to just kind of see like how I had this person when they were just a little person and now they have their own little people and they come back and they won want their kid to be in my class, too. They are here and now I can help a whole nother generation. Go through that same process.
Michael Hingson 39:42
Who are some people who have had, from your perspective major impacts on your life?
Paige A Riggins 39:49
Definitely my grandmother who passed in 2018 and my mom both of them one My grandmother taught me just kind of how to be resilient, which was kind of to a fault, because it took me a long time to really understand what it meant to relax, and to not always talk about work. And so perseverance came from my grandmother, and from my mom, she just really allowed me to be the person that I was growing up to be. And she didn’t want me to make mistakes, but I made them anyway. Because I was a stubborn back then as I am now. And so just kind of those two women in my life showed me both sides of what it meant to be a black woman in the south in America, and what it was gonna look like to be successful and just kind of like, make your own way.
Michael Hingson 40:51
Now, you said your mom is in a power chair, now?
Paige A Riggins 40:54
Michael Hingson 40:56
Has she always been or just that’s recent? No,
Paige A Riggins 41:00
she got hurt at work back when I was in high school. And so her journey through what it meant for sense of self what it meant for access movements. And how she was like, you know, able to, like actually navigate, it shifted drastically for her. And it really made me understand how, how able is, most people are, including myself at the time when it comes to just making space for what people may not have, due to circumstance or biological means. It made me really question what does it mean to like, honor a person as their full selves without one having pity because pity helps no one. And also allowing them to have autonomy over what they need and what they don’t need. She taught me a lot. And still is to this day.
Michael Hingson 42:17
You know, you can’t, you can’t do much better than that mom and grandma,
Paige A Riggins 42:25
to staples in my life
Michael Hingson 42:28
will take mom to Oakland.
Paige A Riggins 42:32
I want to sew back. She told me that I need to go even if it’s only once, because I’ll be able to kind of get a sense of like where I came from. And I keep hearing how like Oakland has changed drastically, but I still I still would would want to go so at least give young page something
Michael Hingson 42:54
did has. And also it’s become more accessible. You can ride the BART the barrier to transit mom could ride Bart, Karen and I did. It’s it’s very a lot of it is very accessible. I don’t know whether there are inaccessible BART stations or not. Most everything I think is accessible. And they monitor you. We went on BART once Karen had never been on BART, we were up in San Francisco. This is around the time we were married or a few months before. And we went to a BART station later in the evening, and she wanted to ride Bart. So we push the button to get the elevator and the elevator came. And I think they were listening to us in the elevator because we said you know i She said we got to figure out where to go to deal with the accessibility part. And either somebody said on the speaker in the elevator or as soon as we got off, they said, Oh, you come this way. And it was it even gets better. So we got through and got to the train got on the train. And the station person that we worked with tracked us and he said, because we just said we wanted to take a ride and then come back. And when we got close to the next station, this voice comes over the speaker. Alright, this is where you’re going because there was basically nobody else on the train. This is where you get off. And I’ll tell I’ll direct you as to where you go. And he just tracked us the whole way, which we which we love. You know, we didn’t consider his spying at all. But Karen had a wonderful experience with part because of that. Now at that time, she was in a manual chair. But it wouldn’t have mattered. She started using a power chair later. But she but she loved going on Barton and it was fun. I’d been on BART and used part a number of times. But I never knew about the fact that they could track me and I wouldn’t mind if they want to do that. That’s fine. But for her it was great. And it gave her a wonderful experience and a lot of confidence and she’s had some other experience This is a transportation there’s a lot of New York that’s not accessible. But buses are accessible in New York. And she actually, we, we went back once before we moved to New Jersey, and we were up at a hotel, when I had to go do some work. When she decided she wanted to go to the UN, she went downstairs, discovered that the buses were accessible, wheeled out to a bus, got on a bus, paid her fare, went to the UN wheeled across, came back bus picked her up, there was a ramp that lowered or I guess it was a ramp that lowered, she got back on the bus, went back to the hotel and did the whole thing. There was a lot of it that was very accessible long sometimes. But she was able to do that. And she could have done it in a power chair as well. But again, at that particular point, she was using a manual chair. But I know New York is now talking about trying to make basically all subway stations are accessible by 2050. And wow. And that’s a job to do. Because some of those I can understand why they’re not accessible, but their commitment is to make them accessible, which is cool.
Paige A Riggins 46:07
That is cool. And I think that also having like the having someone who is watching allows people to have more more autonomy, to not like you know, have to rely on anyone coming with them if they just simply want to have like their own solo adventure. And I love that.
Michael Hingson 46:29
And it seems a reasonable thing to do. So I’m glad she had those experiences, we must be married for two years by 15 days when she passed. So a lot of memories.
Paige A Riggins 46:41
Oh, my goodness, that that is an admirable amount of time. And I know that you honor her memory every day.
Michael Hingson 46:51
That is the plan. Well, you know, you have obviously learned a lot and you have worked on on both sides, if you will, of the of the teaching process. Although if I were to think about you a little bit, I’d say you’re always learning so you’re always looking for good teachers and what you do, because we never stopped learning or we shouldn’t anyway. But for you. What do you think the most important personality trait is? Or what are some important personality traits that you think someone needs to have if they’re going to do your job or be in the kind of field that you’re in?
Paige A Riggins 47:33
So it kind of goes back to the question about risk taking earlier, you have to be adventurous enough to be okay with making mistakes. And along with that curiosity is one of the biggest personality traits, I would say that you need to like, risk taking curiosity, and humility. Because I think it at no point did I ever feel like I’ve arrived. And that’s how I’m able to still keep doing what I’m doing and to keep learning like, you know, even with this call, learning a new perspective on like, how disability can be viewed as not like, you know, not just a lack of something, but it’s just everyone’s way of navigating through society is different, based on different characteristics, like thinking of disability as a characteristic is something that I did not even think to know. And that’s purely off of off of curiosity. So like, if anyone were to get into education, or consulting or just equity work in general, I would say, please go ahead and take risks, learn how to be curious, and always have humility.
Michael Hingson 49:00
Definitely great traits. My parents, I’ve often said, We’re risk takers, because when I was born, and it was discovered, I was blind a few months after being born, my parents were told, send them to a home for handicapped kids, because no blind child could ever grew up to do anything. And they disagreed with that. And they said, Well, of course he can grow up to do whatever he chooses to do. And they had to have taken a lot of risks to allow that to happen to allow me to ride a bike when we were living out here in California, or just to walk around the streets of the Southside of Chicago when I was three and four years old, and things like that. And so there, there were a lot of ways that they took risks. And I’m sure that they, like you thought about it a lot, but they also decided they they couldn’t not do that they had to allow me to explore or how would I learn
Paige A Riggins 50:00
And I love that they not only didn’t take what someone else said, but they said, we’re actually going to just lean into learning new things about how we can support our child. Because look at you now.
Michael Hingson 50:14
Yeah, look at me now, right? Well, no, I hear what you’re saying. And, you know, we are all the product of our parents and those around us and the choices we make. And it’s important that we always think about those things.
Paige A Riggins 50:36
Most definitely. Even when I think about like my, my grandmother, and my mom, and like, what my grandmother taught me, when my mom proposed to teach me all of that came from, especially my mom, taking a risk on knowing that she was raising her children, meaning me and my younger sister differently, and that it wasn’t going to always be viewed as a good thing, because we were taught to be more curious, more outspoken.
Michael Hingson 51:07
Did you have a dad in the process anywhere?
Paige A Riggins 51:10
I have my dad for a little while, we are distant now. And it’s of no, it’s of no consequence, outside of just human things that happen. I think that the biggest thing that I’m really having to kind of grapple with now is that, even when, when adults become parents, that does not mean that they still don’t have their own personal journeys to go on. And that can sometimes impede on being a parent or being a son, a brother, a cousin, and uncle. And that it’s actually okay, because their journey is just gonna look different right now.
Michael Hingson 51:58
Yeah. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what they need to do, as long as they do it. And they do it well.
Paige A Riggins 52:05
Right? Definitely heavy on the wellpark.
Michael Hingson 52:10
Well, there is that yes. There’s always that something I’ve asked occasionally, on this podcast of people, if you had the ability to go back and teach or tell your 18 year old self, something, what would it be?
Paige A Riggins 52:26
I would tell her to find out her best qualities, and then to write down everything that she thinks is not right about herself. And to just ask herself why. Just think about what has made you feel this way about yourself. Because I think if even back then if I had sat and like really thought about what I didn’t like about myself, it would actually be everything that society told me that I should not like about myself, instead of what I didn’t actually like. So I would tell her to just think about that, and start to accept more of who she was because she was gonna turn out to be pretty okay.
Michael Hingson 53:25
What were some things that you didn’t like about yourself, that you could go back and tell your 18 year old person about?
Paige A Riggins 53:32
I think definitely, I probably wouldn’t have been as bossy. And I would have definitely embraced a lot of my dialect from like being in the low country of South Carolina and really embraced the way my mind works when it came to being creative. And like writing short stories, which I still do now, for fun, but it’s just if I hadn’t damp in that, when I was younger, thinking that I had to go be something else. I would have definitely wanted to like change that. It’s just kind of embrace being a black woman in the South. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 54:21
Would you tell her not to wait so long to go to Oakland?
Paige A Riggins 54:25
I definitely would, okay. Oh, this is I know this is gonna sound far fetched. Can you put aside some money from your job at Pizza Hut? And actually go ahead and keep that money until you’re like a little older and then go to Oakland. She wouldn’t have understood what I was saying. But probably would have sold it anyway. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 54:48
well, you know, it’s always fun to have adventures to look forward to.
Paige A Riggins 54:52
Yes, yes, it is.
Michael Hingson 54:55
I don’t know when or if it’ll happen again, but I’d love to go on it. cruise now logistically, we’ll see because there isn’t someone right now to go with. I don’t know a lot of people cruise alone, but cruising Have you ever cruised?
Paige A Riggins 55:08
I have not, I am still grappling with what it’s like to be out in the middle of the ocean and have to like relinquish control?
Michael Hingson 55:22
Oh, it’s a lot of fun and it’s safe.
Paige A Riggins 55:26
Am I try that at some point, I have to figure out where I would want to go, though,
Michael Hingson 55:32
who Yeah, you got to figure that out, too. I suppose you could cruise to Oakland through the Panama Canal. But please get to San Francisco,
Paige A Riggins 55:44
get to things then it was very RC.
Michael Hingson 55:46
Well, you know, it’s, it is so much fun to, to do retrospective things like what you tell your 18 year old self, and so on. But if you found somebody who’s starting out doing what you do, what would be some advice that you’d give them to help them along?
Paige A Riggins 56:10
I would tell them to do it. Take in as many perspectives as you can when you’re in the work. And also trust that what you’re feeling in your gut, is exactly what you need to hear and what you need to do. And so if you’re coming into this work, and you and you realize that you got a pivot, and you have to do something else in this field, or in the world of consulting, then do that thing and be be confident in what you have to do for yourself. Because caring for yourself is going to take you a lot farther than try to ignore what you need, in the pursuit of success.
Michael Hingson 57:00
Gotta really deal with your own personality.
Paige A Riggins 57:04
You do? It’s important to do it. What what actually comes with your your personality? Have you
Michael Hingson 57:13
always wanted to be in a field related to diversity, inclusion and equity? Or however, is that something you adopted over time or, you know, because you taught and you obviously, enjoy doing that, and so on, and you’re what you’re in now, though, you’re working with the Department of Education, it’s a little different than then what you were doing when you were teaching, I would think
Paige A Riggins 57:41
I would definitely say that, even when it came to teaching I didn’t always want to teach. It really wasn’t until I started to just kind of see inconsistencies, even when, even when I was in grade school, and when I graduated from high school. That was after the murder of Trayvon Martin. And it really started to make me think what was the difference between he and I, when it came to to becoming a hashtag. And all throughout college, I went to college for writing for print and digital media, short term journalism. And even though I loved meeting new people, interviewing people, it still did not feel like what I want it to be. And so I would say that reaching young children in the world of like reading and English language arts and then pivoting to also do diversity, equity and inclusion work alongside teaching it. It used to seem kind of out of the blue until I always think back to that moment where I asked myself that question once. I initially heard the news about Trayvon Martin and so just kind of coming to a point where I was face to like deal with race and and other aspects of a person’s identity especially with this being after my mom lost the ability to like walk on her own and having to like really grapple with what does it mean for someone to be able to have access and navigate through our society, effort equitably? And that’s really what what not only led to teaching but then to also working in a school district focused on equity and then also doing my own work around workplace culture and ensuring that people have different structures of protection for their marginalized identities. Yeah, it just it all, it all kind of seems like puzzle pieces that fell into place, even as I’m talking to you now.
Michael Hingson 1:00:21
I think that’s an interesting way to put it that they’re all puzzle pieces. And it all goes back to you made choices that led to other choices that led to other choices to do what you’re doing. And you sound like you have no regrets. Oh, no,
Paige A Riggins 1:00:37
none at all, which is great moments, when education definitely made, made it seem like the world was just crashing down around me. There was no choice that I have not made that I have regretted.
Michael Hingson 1:00:57
And that’s good you and you’ve obviously given a lot of thought to all of that, and, and it helps you move forward. Have you done any writing blogs or books or anything?
Paige A Riggins 1:01:08
Um, right now, I do have a newsletter called shifting the culture, it’s on LinkedIn. People can find it via my professional LinkedIn page. But that’s where I put my writing to use when I’m talking about workplace culture right now. And as far as just using my writing skills, I do my own short stories for fun, just to Lexmark creative muscles for you, when I get the chance.
Michael Hingson 1:01:40
Once you get enough of them, you can put them into a book.
Paige A Riggins 1:01:44
You know, I just had a friend say that the other day, and I bet thought kind of scares me a little. But I guess that’ll be the next risk that I take at some point.
Michael Hingson 1:01:56
Consider it an adventure.
Paige A Riggins 1:01:59
Hmm, I’ll think about it that way. Because it scares me when I think about it as a risk.
Michael Hingson 1:02:05
Well, if people want to reach out to you, and maybe contact you or whatever, how do they do that? And what is your your LinkedIn page, we’ll put those things in the notes, but at the same time, tell us any contact information that you’d like to do right now.
Paige A Riggins 1:02:21
So sure, so if people want to reach out to me, you can either email me at contact at cultureof equityllc.com Or you can find me on LinkedIn, my name on LinkedIn is Paige A Riggins and just to kind of circle back to the A the A stands for, Ariana, but I really want to, I always include it and then people ask, Are there multiple PAige Riggins in the organization? No, I just like with those two ways, that
Michael Hingson 1:02:56
people who spoke paid this spell Paige A Riggin’s and so on.
Paige A Riggins 1:03:00
Sure. So Paige P A I G E. A and then Riggins R I G G I N S. And just for my, my email, that is contact C O N T A C T at culture of equity, LLC, C U L T U R E OF E Q U I T Y L L C, dot C O M
Michael Hingson 1:03:28
There you go. Well, I hope people will reach out. This has been an absolutely fascinating discussion as far as I am concerned. And I do hope that you listening out there felt the same. We got to cover a lot of different areas today and went far and wide and discussions. And that’s what really makes unstoppable mindset so much fun. And Paige, I really appreciate the stories and the insights that you bring to it. And I hope we can do this again.
Paige A Riggins 1:04:02
Of course, and thank you so much. I love this conversation. And I just appreciate what you brought to the table when it came to your perspective. And thank you for sharing.
Michael Hingson 1:04:16
Well, thank you and for all of you when you’re listening out there, please give us a five star rating wherever you rate podcasts, especially if you’re on Apple and iTunes because those are the numbers that people tend to pay the most attention to, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well please email me, Michaelhi M I C H A E L H I at accessiBE A C C E S S I B E.com. Or visit our podcast page www dot Michael hingson H i n g s o n.com/podcast. Love to hear your thoughts. Want to hear what you think. And again, please give us a five star rating where wherever you’re listening, and we’d love to chat with you if you need a speaker to come and speak at any events so that you might be planning or need someone to come and motivate. Let me know. We’d love to explore that with you. And again, Paige one last time. Thank you for being here and being with us today.
Paige A Riggins 1:05:13
No problem. Thank you all so much.
Michael Hingson 1:05:20
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.