My Approach to Teaching and Learning
I carry these words from Maya Angelou everywhere: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This sentiment is a lodestar for me. I believe the best teachers are eager lifelong students who constantly aim to learn with and from their students. As a teacher educator, it is critical that I model for my teacher candidates my own lifelong learning in my mission to always “do better.” Specifically, I model what it means to be a teacher-scholar. I strive to constantly “know better.” As a teacher-scholar, I actively engage in qualitative research in critical special education teacher preparation with our Miami teacher candidates to partner together to learn from communities who experience injustice in public education. This work empowers me to “do better” by applying our research in partnership with my Miami teacher candidates to center socially just teaching practices that support increased access in education into our course learning objectives. Becoming a teacher-scholar and constantly seeking critical perspectives in education has been my most vital practice as an educator. It has sparked teaching and research experiences that have served as a catalyst for me to transition from a special education teacher who advocated for my students – who fought for inclusion for my students – to an educator in higher ed who models for my students how to learn with and from their future students, and to support their future students in their advocacy for access and justice in education.
My Teacher-Scholar Journey
Developing pedagogy through the teacher-scholar model is powerful. As a teacher-scholar in teacher preparation, I partner with teacher candidates in research grounded in disability studies in education as a means to challenge traditional special education practices. This provides an opportunity to apply critical disability studies theory and socially just teaching practices as a model in my own courses in partnership with my students. Critical pedagogy scholar Paulo Freire argued that critical thinking can develop only when questions are posed as problems. Problem-posing teaching encourages students to engage in research to further their critical understanding of the world outside their lived experiences. Teacher-scholar pedagogy provides a framework to share power and decision-making with my students that often extends beyond my courses.
An example of the teacher-scholar model in action is the Access Miami Program. In 2015, several inclusive special education majors asked why students labeled with intellectual disabilities can’t attend Miami. We created an ongoing independent study where our teacher candidates research disability community perspectives on accessing college. Guided by our research, we develop a weeklong summer program for students with and without intellectual disabilities to live on campus together and take disability studies classes. Each summer, our Miami teacher candidates teach many aspects of the courses, co-teach classes with our students labeled with intellectual disabilities, and partner in meaningful action projects to advocate for increased access. Engaging in research with students in ways that empower them to share in leadership and decision-making is a powerful opportunity in teacher-scholar pedagogy.
Knowledge is Power
“Actively engaging in research in partnership with my Miami students through a teacher-scholar model empowers me to create new pathways for student learning that directly impact both my students and my teaching in powerful and deeply meaningful ways. Sharing in decision-making with my students to inform my teaching and research – and partnering in leadership roles with them – provide paths that honor and value my students’ intellect, interests, and unique strengths. To me, this is teaching for love and honor.”
M.A. The Ohio State University
B.A. Miami University
More About Me
My work as a teacher educator centers accessible and just education grounded in critical special education and disability studies in education theory and practices. My biggest aspiration as a Miami educator is to develop and coordinate an academic program for students labeled with intellectual disabilities to attend Miami as full-time students.