New Jersey voice for equity: the journey of Danielle Earle

Danielle Earle
Danielle Earle

In the bustling halls of New Jersey’s public schools, Danielle Earle stands out not just as a teacher, but as a beacon of change and inclusivity. Her path to advocacy began with a degree in animation and visual effects, a world that seemed distant and competitive. Seeking a new direction, Earle turned to filmmaking, a passion she had long nurtured but hesitated to pursue professionally.

“Education allowed me to keep that balance creatively,” Earle reflects. “When I saw that my mother was able to do what she loved and fill that void and still be able to give back to the youth, I knew that there was a space for me to do that also.”

As Earle’s teaching career blossomed, so did her advocacy work. She became deeply involved with organizations like Out Montclair, the Newark LGBTQ Center, and Garden State Equality, where she championed LGBTQ rights and inclusion in public schools. Her dedication didn’t go unnoticed, and she was honored with the Equity Champion Award by the New Jersey Education Association, a testament to her tireless efforts.

“It warmed my heart that so many wonderful educators and colleagues that I had admired and looked up to wanted to acknowledge my hard work and efforts as an educator, advocating for inclusion in public schools for LGBTQIA+ youth,” Earle recalls.

For Earle, equity in education is not just about funding and resources; it’s about creating a safe and inclusive environment where every student can thrive. Despite the challenges she faces, including financial constraints and systemic barriers, Danielle remains steadfast in her mission.

“Equity is important. As educators, we continue to strive for something, and for our students to shine academically, intellectually, and artistically,” she asserts. “Funding is always a factor and often it’s a challenge, but as educators, we always find a way to overcome those challenges.”

One of her most rewarding projects was the LGBTQ Black History Doc Series, a collaboration that not only educated but also celebrated diversity in the arts, which aired this past April. Through her work, Earle aims to empower students and provide them with the tools they need to succeed, not just in school, but in life.

“LGBTQ Black History Doc Series was a lot of fun and challenging at times but thankfully I had a wonderful co-worker: Ms. Brown, Dance Teacher at OHS, who collaborated with me on the project,” Earle shares. “I’m thankful for her that she has always highlighted LGBTQ+ artists in performing arts and has always supported her LGBTQ+ students and created a safe space for them in the classroom.”

Looking ahead, Earle’s goals are ambitious yet heartfelt. She dreams of expanding her advocacy beyond New Jersey, particularly in states like Florida, where support for LGBTQ youth is crucial. Through her production company and industry connections, Danielle hopes to offer job training and internships to students, giving them a pathway to success in the film industry.

Danielle Earle
Danielle Earle at work.

To students facing inequities in their education, Earle offers a message of hope and resilience. “You are not alone. I hear and see you. There are opportunities within your community,” she assures. “You just have to put yourself out there.”

And to the allies out there, Earle offers a special message to them, as well. “By providing more opportunities for our students, especially our BIPOC LGBTQIA+ students that are often shut out. We have to offer job training opportunities and internships for our youth so that when they graduate high school they are better equipped and can be self -sufficient in college.

“As a black woman in the industry, I face the same discrimination that my students face, but at the same time as an educator, I’m in a position to provide opportunities for them in terms of work-based learning. I own a production company, PL Entertainment LLC. I’m also in the Writers Guild of America East, so I often have opportunities where I can hire students and recent graduates for jobs in the film industry. That’s another way to help support equity for our students.”

Danielle Earle
Danielle Earle

As she continues to pave the way for change, Earle’s story serves as a powerful reminder of the impact one person can have in shaping a more equitable future for all.

In a survey by GLSEN, it was found that affirming teachers can have a profound impact on LGBTQ students. The survey revealed that students who had supportive and affirming teachers were more likely to feel safe and accepted at school, leading to higher academic achievement and overall well-being.