Adai Tefera’s research focuses on improving educational policies for diverse learners with dis/abilities. She is particularly interested in understanding the socio-historical, political, and cultural dimensions that shape policies and impact learning. A second strand of her research focuses on knowledge mobilization, an emerging field that aims to increase the impact and use of research by utilizing interactive strategies that target wide audiences, including educators, policy makers, community organizers, parents, and students. She is specifically interested in knowledge mobilization efforts that advance equity in education.

Taucia Gonzalez is a doctoral candidate at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University in the Curriculum and Instruction program with a concentration in special education. She is interested in expanding literacy practices for language minority students with learning disabilities. More specifically, her work examines how Latina/o language minority students engage in literacy across in- and out-of-school contexts.

Cueponcaxochitl’s research draws on decolonial and socio-cultural theories to examine Ancestral Computing for environmental, economic and social sustainability. Ancestral Computing for sustainability is an ecosystems approach to solving complex problems by interweaving Ancestral Knowledge Systems and computer science. She is a Xicana scholar activist who applies the interdisciplinary frameworks, coloniality of power and figured worlds, to analyze identity formations and civic engagement across learning environments (formal and informal). Her research informs various areas of work such as foundations, teacher preparation programs, curriculum studies and policy in computer science education.

Sarah Alvarado Díaz is a research assistant for Equity Alliance and a first-year doctoral student in the Learning, Literacies and Technologies program, with a special interest in students who are labeled as English language learners, as students who receive special education services, and in particular, looking at disproportionate numbers of English language learners being referred for special education services or being placed in special education programs.  Prior to coming to ASU as a full-time student she worked as an elementary school teacher in a South Phoenix school for sixteen years, where she worked with first through third grade students, and many years as a dual language teacher, in English and Spanish.  

This blog is written from the perspective of our four voices combined. You will see that the lines between our stories are blurred. Our combined experiences in policy and teaching in diverse settings is weaved into the voice of one person with four intersectional paths of theory and practice. Read more

H. Richard Milner IV is the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education, Professor of Education, Professor of Social Work (by courtesy), and Professor of Africana Studies (by courtesy) as well as Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a policy fellow of the National Education Policy Center. His research, teaching and policy interests concern urban education, teacher education, African American literature, and the sociology of education. In particular, Professor Milner’s research examines practices that support teachers for success in urban schools. Professor Milner’s work has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published five books. His book, published in 2010 by Harvard Education Press, is: Start where you are but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classrooms http://hepg.org/hep/book/129/StartWhereYouAreButDonTStayThere, which represents years of research and development effort. Currently, he is Editor-in-chief of Urban Education and co-editor of the Handbook of Urban Education http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415634779/with Kofi Lomotey, published with Routledge Press in 2014. He can be reached at rmilner@pitt.edu.

Years ago, I provided a workshop with educators in an elementary school – educators, principals, and a small number of counselors.  I was invited to focus – in particular – on the role of poverty in education and to provide instructional strategies for educators that would assist them in better meeting the needs of students whose needs are grossly under-met in schools.  These students tend to be students of color (namely Black and Brown), those living in poverty, those whose first language is not English, and those whose first language is not English.  Although analyses of achievement gap patterns, graduate rates, enrollment in gifted and advanced courses, office and special education referral, and participation in school-wide clubs and activities demonstrate how Black and Brown children’s needs, in particular, in too many instances are not being met, my attempt to shepherd the educators in the workshop into real conversations about race, the salience and persistence of racism, and inequity was resisted.  Moreover, educators in the session wanted me to tell them exactly what to do with “those” children, who are very different than the children the educators taught in the past and “certainly” different from the times when the educators themselves were students.  I quickly learned my job was to focus on poverty exclusively and to tell those in attendance exactly what to do to raise their students’ test scores.

Read more

Rita Kohli is an Assistant Professor in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San José State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, with an emphasis in Race and Ethnic Studies. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory in Education, racial hierarchies in schools, teachers of color, and improving the educational realities of students of color. A former middle school teacher, and current teacher educator, Dr. Kohli has 15 years of experience working in urban public schools. She is the co-founder and co-director of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, and currently serves as program chair for the Critical Educators for Social Justice Special Interest Group for the American Educational Research Association. She has published in journals such as Race, Ethnicity and Education, Education, Equity and Excellence and Teacher Education Quarterly.

When I was a teacher in Oakland, California, I worked at a school that was primarily African American, but also had over ten languages spoken within the student population.  At a school that diverse, it is hard to imagine that, as a South Asian American woman, I was one of the only teachers on campus who was not white or black.  The teaching staff was incredibly segregated, and at lunch, faculty would watch if I sat at a “white” or “black” table.  I even had a co-worker ask me one day if I thought of myself as “white or black?” and was quite shocked when I said neither.  A culminating moment for me was at a staff breakfast the day before we went on winter break one year.  The principal passed around black and white Styrofoam Santa ornaments as a holiday gift, and as the box made its way towards me, the teachers next to me whispered, “which one is she going to take?”  I ended up taking a black Santa, but as an Indian and a Hindu, it was clear to me that my identity, culture and religion were invisible to the broader staff. Read more

Helen Anderson is the Manager of Curriculum and Research at Harmony Movement, a not-for-profit organization that delivers educational programming on equity and inclusion to youth, educators, and social service providers, empowering them to become leaders of social change. Helen completed her Ph.D. in Theory and Policy Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, focusing in her research on social justice and anti-racism education.  She has taught at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and has worked with numerous community service organizations to address issues such as racism, food security, gender-based violence, youth violence, and homophobia.


What is it that stands in the way of truly empowering educational experiences?  Fear.  Fear of who we could be and fear of who we are.  Fear that others will misjudge us.  Fear that their judgments will be correct.  Fear of losing power.  Although fear may make school equity movements feel slow and fruitless, hope can remind us of the powerful tools we have at our disposal that make a difference in youths’ lives. 

At a time when educational equity is clouded with fear, I look for hope.  I found that hope recently at a conference on education that transformed the way I think about teaching and learning.  The Lost Lyrics Symposium, was a conference focused on creating an education system from the ground up, guided by the needs and input of young people, parents/guardians, and community members.  It highlighted the need to address the disconnect between the lived realities of many students and their experiences of school.  Read more

Clare Okyere is currently the Teacher on Assignment at Herrera School for the Fine Arts and Dual Language, prior to which she served as a fifth grade teacher in the same school for five years.  During the past few years Clare oversaw the Teacher Assistance Team at her school to ensure teachers were supported and well informed in implementing the Response to Intervention framework to better meet the needs of all students.  Clare was recently selected as a grant recipient for a fully funded Master’s program based on her leadership skills in her school district.  She began her coursework this summer in Educational Administration & Supervision in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.  In addition to her work and studies Clare is also a co-founder of Twenty-Nine Eleven Productions, a publishing company through which Clare has served as a book editor and more recently published her first children’s book Bluebird, Bluebird.  While Clare’s roles have shifted over the past few years, her commitment to serving all students with high standards remains constant.


I was recently asked a simple enough question, What is the role of the teacher?  Initially, I thought, That’s easy enough. That’s who I am. It’s at my core. Of course I can answer that question.

But then, I started reflecting, like teachers are prone to do, and that seemingly simple question became much more complex. My role was constantly changing through my experiences as a teacher.  For instance, when I was still in college the role of the teacher meant we focused on pedagogy—how to teach the children.  I was prepared to go into my first job and rise to the challenge of teaching students to use inquiry to learn the secrets of simple machines, to use questioning to create mathematical conjectures, and to facilitate literature studies that would allow children to “read the world.”   When I became a full time teacher the reality of a classroom context dramatically stretched my understanding of my role.  My focus on pedagogy was not enough to meet the demands of teaching.  Thirty students with different life histories, cultures, languages, educational strengths and struggles, family dynamics, reading levels, attendance patterns, socioeconomics, and more entered the classroom.  In order to meet their needs I had to reconsider my role.

In fact, give me a multiple choice question, and I’d probably think my way into getting it wrong.

Question: What is the role of the teacher?

  • Choice A would be something like, “Facilitator of knowledge.” That’s true.
  • Choice B – “Advocate.” Yep.
  • Choice C – “Counselor.” Yes, each and every day.
  • And finally, the ever famous D, “All of the above.”

Read more

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.

My daughter Camila is back at school after a two week break.  Last night while I was making dinner, I noticed her engrossed in homework, and she even seemed to be smiling.  In order to understand why this struck me as suspicious you need to understand our history with homework.   For the past year, I have become very hands-off with it.  Yes, I know.  This is an appalling thing for an educator to say, but you need to understand that homework was destroying my relationship with my daughter.

I used to think, a thirty minute homework assignment?  Piece of cake! After all, when I taught, I had teenage boys reading poetry like kittens lapping milk out of the palm of my hand.  I could handle my nine-year old and her reading homework.

Everything would start off picture-perfect.  Camila would sit at the dining room table armed with her unzipped Eastpack, library books with shiny plastic covers, yellow Ticonderogas with their pointy graphite and clean pink erasers poised for action, and a black and white composition book open and waiting for her tiny hands…but things would quickly turn sour.   The dining room table, with all of its shiny homework tools, would become a war zone. Read more


Kori Hamilton is a writer and editor for the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).  She has a love and  passion for children, particularly those typically marginalized.  Her desire to improve the experiences that children have in school led her to pursue her doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University.   Her hope is that her work in education has meaning and directly touches the lives of children.

Working as a secondary teacher in South Central Los Angeles brought some of the best times in my life.  I gained a perspective from students that dispelled my assumptions about their thoughts and feelings.  I remember when I first set foot on the middle school campus, fresh out of college and excited to begin my work in the classroom, I encountered a question that I had not anticipated.  At least one student would ask daily for the first week, “Are you our real teacher?”  I would answer their question with a question. “Whose name do you see written on your schedule?” “Hamilton”, they would respond. “I am Hamilton. And yes, I am your real teacher.” Read more

Lisa Lacy Lisa Marie Lacy was a former Special Education teacher who taught for six years in an urban school district in a large metropolitan area in the southwestern region of the United States. She is currently a doctoral student at Arizona State University in the Curriculum & Instruction-Special Education program. Lisa’s research interests lie in the area of identity and teachers’ beliefs and perceptions as they relate to inclusive education. She is interested in how teachers’ beliefs and perceptions are shaped by their lived experiences and cultural histories and have an impact on how they view students with disabilities in the educational setting. Additionally, she is interested in creating culturally responsive school/family partnerships for the betterment of all students.

I arrived at work in a harried state and frame of mind. I have so much work to do today and a ton of IEP meetings, these words ran through my head as I unlocked the classroom door and instinctively turned on the lights and walked to my desk and retrieved my phone messages. I put my book bag on the floor next to my desk, and checked my emails, one-by-one, quickly glancing at the clock on the wall. 8:45. I sighed, and mumbled come on to the computer as I waited impatiently for all ten pages of my IEP documents to print from my printer. I just had enough time to grab the student’s file and all other paperwork that goes into a student’s file that is going to receive special education services. Read more

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