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.