Laura Atkinson is a research associate in the School of Social Transform at Arizona State University (ASU) and a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction-Special Education. Laura is currently serving as the coordinator of the Urban Professional Learning Schools Initiative (UPLSI) Master’s program. She spent over a decade teaching general education and special education before receiving her MA in special education (with a focus on Learning Disabilities) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Laura served as the Director of an $8.5 million dollar grant at Mississippi State University (ACHIEVE Mississippi). She has also served as a lecturer in curriculum and instruction at ASU where she has taught undergraduate and graduate level classes in regular and special education. Additionally, Laura coordinated an accelerated, immersion teacher certification program and supervised student teachers. Her research interests include pre-service teacher education, professional development for teachers, culturally responsive pedagogy, and professional learning schools.


Recently I was walking with a colleague of mine on campus as a group of students passed us by. “Laura, is that you?” One of the students, a tall, handsome African American man, was looking at me.   I studied this unfamiliar man and behind the mature face, trousers, and tie, I recognized the young undergraduate I had taught nearly a decade earlier. Tim had been in my reading methods class and I had supervised him during his student teaching experience.

As Tim and I spent a few minutes catching up on highlights from the past seven years I asked him what he was doing on campus.  “I’m working on my Master’s in Educational Leadership. I want to become a principal.”  Tim’s still sheepish smile radiated pride as he looked down at me, revealing the young man I had known so well years earlier. I remembered that even then Tim stood out for his natural leadership abilities.  I couldn’t help but joining him in that sense of pride, wondering if I could have played a small role in his desire to continue higher education.   

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Taucia GonzalezTaucia 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

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