Dr. Verónica Nelly Vélez is an Assistant Professor and the Founding Director of the Education and Social Justice Minor at Western Washington University (WWU). Before joining WWU, Verónica worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and the Director of Public Programming at the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory and Latina/o Critical Theory in Education, the politics of parent engagement in educational reform, particularly for Latina/o (im)migrant families, participatory action and community-based models of research, and the use of GIS technologies to further a critical race research agenda on the study of space and educational (in)opportunity. Verónica presents workshops nationally on how to employ GIS critically in educational research and visual literacy projects seeking social and spatial justice. In addition to her scholarly work, Verónica serves as a consultant for several grassroots and non-profit organizations throughout California, building upon her work as a community organizer for over 15 years. She received her Ph.D. in Education from UCLA with a specialization in race and ethnic studies, under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Solorzano. Verónica is the proud daughter of a Mexican (im)migrant mother and a Panamanian (Im)migrant father, whose journey to provide her and her sister with a quality education fundamentally inspires Verónica’s work for social justice.
When my graduate school advisor encouraged me to take a course in geographic information systems (GIS), I happily obliged. Although unclear at the time how GIS’ ability to analyze and display data on a map would assist my work as an educational researcher on issues of equity and opportunity, or as a grassroots organizer focused on political advocacy in Latina/o immigrant communities, the thought of building a new, and unexpected, skill set was enough to motivate me to enroll. Surrounded by my graduate school peers in urban planning, geography, and public policy, I was awe-struck by the high-tech visual spectacle of GIS maps and the possibilities for creatively applying its analytical tools. My peers’ professional interests in using GIS for neighborhood revitalization projects and city planning provided me opportunities to consider GIS as an effective visual tool for communicating data to diverse groups of stakeholders. Not only did GIS make data accessible through maps, it made it easier for targeted audiences to connect with the maps by displaying data in a relative context and in a familiar format, given the accessibility and use of maps in everyday life. GIS thus made possible, at least in theory, the inclusion of voices in key decision-making (e.g., policy or otherwise) that had previously been absent. Yet despite my growing appreciation of GIS as an innovative data visualization and communication tool, I still questioned how its strengths would translate into practice—my work in education.
Fast-forward several months to a planning meeting of a group of Latina immigrant mothers in Los Angeles County. Originating from Mexico and Central America, the mothers had come together organically to raise concerns about their children’s schools and mobilize community-based reform. Over the course of ten years, they had inserted themselves in school decision-making by joining school site councils and district-level task forces, among other things. School board elections were around the corner and the mothers were organizing a community forum to bring together elected officials, candidates, and community members to address concerns of educational opportunity and access for the school-aged population living in a particular neighborhood within their school district, comprised mainly of Latina/o and African-American families. For years as an ally to their efforts, I witnessed the mothers rebuffed at school board meetings when they highlighted the relationship between race, space, and educational opportunity. At these meetings, they courageously shared example after example of how their own children were denied access to gatekeeper programs and courses (e.g., gifted and talented education programs, courses required for college), if such were even offered in their children’s schools. Their pleas were written off as anecdotal and unsubstantiated by district officials. The mothers knew about my “mapping” class and approached me with an idea: Can maps help us show that race and ethnicity continue to impact the opportunities our children receive in schools? Given their experiences, the mothers saw potential in GIS. Despite their own critiques of how data were used at district-level meetings to silence the everyday conditions and practices that marginalized their children, they believed that GIS, with its convincing displays of information, could be re-imagined for legitimatizing their narratives and centering their voices in school decision-making. Read more
Anthony1 who self-identifies as a DREAMer2 grew up and attended school in the Phoenix metro area. He has been married for seven years. Although he was born in Mexico, beyond family stories, he has little memory of his parents’ homeland since he moved to the U.S. as a child. Anthony is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enroll in college, but in the meanwhile he proudly cares for his 18 month old daughter and a niece and nephew full time.
I have no recollection of being brought to the United States; after all I was a 4-year-old child. Growing up I had the good fortune of being raised in an environment that never forced me to think about citizenship in terms of documentation and social security numbers. I attended elementary schools where children of different races learned and played together, and in my mind we were all citizens. I never recall knowing or wondering about anyone’s documentation status or who was an American. In my mind we were all American and we all had dreams.
Kim Anderson is the author of Culturally Considerate School Counseling: Helping Without Bias (2010), co-author of Creating Culturally Considerate Schools: Educating Without Bias (2012), both published by Corwin Press and a contributor to How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies, 2nd Edition (2012) and The Biracial and Multiracial Student Experience: A Journey to Racial Literacy (2008) by Dr. Bonnie M. Davis.
Ms. Anderson presents her eclectic work at numerous local, regional and national events and venues, engaging her audience through compelling narrative, careful research, evocative experiences, and instructive storytelling. She is currently working on a book based upon one of her clinical workshops entitled, Hour by Hour: Wholistic Practice in Clinical Social Work.
On December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut came under siege. Not unlike the Columbine, Colorado shooters some thirteen years earlier, the only definitive truths we seem to know about Adam Lanza are that he was young, computer knowledgeable, and dressed in dissident fashion as he used automatic weapons to kill innocent and seemingly random children and adults. Like the school assassins who preceded him, Lanza was immediately labeled an outsider, mentally ill, and antisocial. His mother, also dead from bullets allegedly propelled by her own son, likewise was vilified. These are horrible, graphic images and hideous notions with which we are left.
My diverse vocations and avocations (mental health professional, educational consultant, artist, writer, and life-long learner) prompt me to view this event holistically. Our minds, bodies, psyches and spirits have all been assaulted by this historic trauma. I recognize that we are trying to solve this particular problem when, collectively, we cannot think very clearly. Our bodies shudder in empathy for the victims. Our psyches attempt to integrate how we feel and what we know by our fervent attempt to understand. In short, we attempt to make sense of the senseless. Read more
Maryellen Daston, Ph.D., has a background in biomedical research and technical writing. As a researcher, she specialized in developmental neuroscience. But when she started working for Project SEARCH®, her focus shifted from cells in a dish to the development of the whole person. As part of the Project SEARCH team, Maryellen is responsible for editing and writing content for the Project SEARCH web site, articles for professional journals, grant proposals, and other communications—including the recently published book, High School Transition that Works: Lessons Learned from Project SEARCH (Brookes Publishing Co.).
Erin Riehle, M.S.N., is a recognized authority and national leader in promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. She is a founder and Senior Director of Project SEARCH, an employment and transition program that has received national recognition for innovative practices. When she started Project SEARCH, Erin was a nurse manager at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her motivation was to offer people with disabilities (who made up a significant portion of the hospital’s patient volume) the same opportunities for training and employment that were available to everyone else. She brought a business perspective to the field of disability education, as well as an ability to bring organizations together for a shared purpose.
Susie Rutkowski, M.Ed., is the Co-Director and Educational Specialist for Project SEARCH. She is a nationally recognized transition expert with specific experience in program development in career technical education and job development for young adults with disabilities. She served as the Manager for Disability Education at Great Oaks Career Campuses for over 12 years. During that tenure she, along with Erin Riehle, cofounded Project SEARCH. Susie has been instrumental in designing the Project SEARCH Training Institute modules and leading replication efforts for new Project SEARCH sites. She speaks and writes on transition-related topics.
“Rachel” was born with Down syndrome. As she approached the transition from high school to adult life, she and her family were faced with many hard questions and difficult decisions about what her next steps should be. Rachel wasn’t able to read, write, or count to 10, so it was not clear to those close to her how she would achieve any level of independence or become a contributing member of her community.
The hope for most typically abled high school graduates is that they will find gainful employment, or go on to college or other post-secondary training that will ultimately lead to a good job. When a young person becomes employed, they get the obvious advantage of improved financial circumstances. But even more importantly, they also benefit from the fulfillment, maturity, and sense of belonging that comes with meaningful work. Unfortunately, young people like Rachel with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter more than the usual obstacles in getting to this significant milestone. The result is chronically high levels of unemployment for this population throughout their lives. For example, in 2008, the employment rate was 39.1% for people with disabilities and of working age (18–64 years), as compared with 77.7% employment for people within the same age group but without disabilities 1. From year to year, the size of this gap remains roughly the same, regardless of the state of the economy.
Taucia Gonzalez is a student at Arizona State University pursing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Special Education. Prior to becoming a full time graduate student, she taught in a culturally rich school community that promoted and supported bilingualism and biliteracy. Her research interests focus on the intersections of culture, language, and disability within an urban context; with particular interest in how ideologies create and control spaces.
If you ask my daughter, Camila, about her teacher, she will tell you, “He is the best teacher in the world.” I had heard other kids praise Mr. Bandera as well. Last January I spent two weeks launching a poetry inquiry in their class. The kids were taking turns sharing out something they held in their heart. One boy enthusiastically threw his fist in the air and shouted, “Mr. Bandera because he’s the best teacher ever!” Wow, I looked over at the small statured teacher with the disheveled button up shirt; his tie a little off center, wondering what it was that made him the best teacher ever.
What do kids know about good teaching? Honestly, I had yet to see guided reading groups in his classroom, so I had my own critiques of his teaching. I knew that the school was under a lot of pressure to raise their test scores, so I thought that might be a way for me to convince Mr. Bandera to incorporate guided reading. Maybe there were a few things I could teach him, being that he was a fairly new teacher. Read more
Dr. Urso earned her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Arizona, her M.S. Ed. in Reading from the State University of New York at Oneonta and her B.S. in Special Education from the College of St. Rose. She has over 20 years’ experience teaching students in K-12 and adult populations in New York State. Dr. Urso has also worked extensively in the southwest training teachers and para-educators to work with students who have learning disabilities on Native American Indian Reservations. She has presented her research at national and international conferences. Dr. Urso believes we need to prepare teachers who are culturally competent and committed to social justice. She also believes our teachers must be highly skilled in effective, culturally responsive assessment, intervention and instructional techniques for children with disabilities. She is actively involved in supporting local school districts in their efforts to support students with learning differences. Currently, Dr. Urso is an Assistant Professor in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo.
As a parent, a long-time teacher in K-12 schools, and now as a teacher educator, I have taught about diversity, acceptance, and tolerance. I have supported the messages of our civil rights leaders, and highlighted the laws that provide equal access to education and constitutional rights for all our citizens. I have encouraged my children and students, through example and education, that we are all members of one human race entitled to respect and equal rights. I realize that I have fallen short in my responsibility because I have neglected to teach my children and students how to stand up against intolerance and bigotry when they see it. I have neglected to provide the time and attention to fully respond to my pre-service teachers’ confrontations with institutional racism and bias in the schools they work in. I would suggest we all have fallen short in our responsibility to help shape an inclusive philosophy in our future generations. Several recent events have brought this matter to my attention that I wish to share with you. Last fall over the course of one month, five young people took their lives after being cyber-bullied or harassed for issues of sexuality, ethnicity, or gender. Early this year, a student at a public Utah high school attended a pep rally in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe; subsequent investigation into this racist incident revealed it was not an isolated occurrence in the district. Last month, a high school in Birmingham, Alabama held meetings with parents after racist comments were found written on a bathroom wall, a racist note was found in the mailbox of a teacher, and another note was found in a student’s locker.
These are not isolated incidents. Read more
Joellen Killion is the deputy executive director of the National Staff Development Council. She is the author of numerous books and articles about effective professional learning, evaluating professional development, coaching, and teacher leadership.
Whose child is this?
As I walked down the hall of the bustling middle school with young people scurrying through the halls dashing from room to room to get to their next class, I heard a female adult voice rise above the din call out, “Whose child is this?” Puzzled, I turned toward the voice to see an adult standing next to a thin, perhaps 6th grade, student. The adult had a firm grip on the backpack strap that hung loosely from the young man’s back. Around the pair students flowed like water around rocks in a stream going about their business of getting to their next class.