I have a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pittsburgh, M.Ed. in Reading and Bilingual Education from Texas Woman’s University and a B.A. in English Writing and Communications from the University of Pittsburgh.
As my former and current students know, I started my career working in Professional Soccer, first in Pittsburgh then in Dallas, Texas. I tell this story in one of our first classes that I teach in the CASE Teacher Preparation program at the University of Pittsburgh because it is much of my identity! I spent about 15 years working in soccer in various areas. I began at Pitt, working for the men’s soccer team and writing for the Pitt News. At that point, my goal was to become one of the very few women sports writers at that time. Once I graduated and began to work for the Pittsburgh Spirit, I realized that I enjoyed working for teams much more than newspapers. I left Pittsburgh in 1985 and began working as the Director of Sales and Operations for the Dallas Sidekicks. I truly loved this work and learned a wealth of knowledge of how to work with people and promote something that is important to you.
However, it began to not be as fulfilling as it once was. I heard that there was a great need for teachers in the DFW area so investigated becoming an alternative certification teacher. I am happy that I decided against that and went back to work on my M.Ed at Texas Woman’s University. I had such a great appreciation for my professors and for learning at the age of thirty!! I originally began my undergraduate years in 1976 planning to become a teacher. I found my way back to that path after a wonderful learning experience in my first career!!
I am currently an Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. After 15 years as a bilingual elementary level educator in Dallas I moved back to my hometown of Pittsburgh. I found myself back in school for the third time working on my Ph.D. I started the year before as a part-time instructor and student teacher supervisor and loved working with college level students. I believed that I could have an impact on teacher certification students and support their learning before beginning their careers.
Along the way, I’ve been involved in Texas and in Pennsylvania in Professional Development of in-service teachers and also worked as a consultant for Head Start, working primarily with Spanish speakers in preschool.
I believe that a highly effective teacher should be able to teach all ages. In one summer, I went from teaching kindergarten students to teaching college level at Pitt. After a year I said to this first cohort, “I really didn’t think that I would be able to have the same sorts of relationships and love for teaching in college that I had experienced in elementary school, and I realize that it is the same!” I always want to model best practices of teaching for all of my students. By that I mean best practices in building relationships, making connections, and treating each student as a unique individual who you truly care for and want to support.
Many children in PK-12 schools are marginalized and this doesn’t stop in college.
Also, my entire life has been focused on treating every single person with respect and dignity, caring for each and understanding their needs. This means being present for each person. This has transferred over to my focus of teaching at Pitt which centers around social justice and equity. More than anything, I want to impact my students by teaching them about the structures and systems of the education in the U.S. and how it has not served many black and brown children for hundreds of years. We have important conversations in each class of how to address these truths head on, discuss them and understand how each of us can make a better world for children with our teaching.
As I mentioned above the area of equity and justice is at the forefront of what I teach and the mission and vision of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve seen injustices in my own education. As a white woman, I’ve not experienced direct racism based on my own race, however I’ve been aware of injustices that have happened to some of my black and brown friends.
I am in the last decade of my career. I say “decade” since that will cover the span of time that I will no doubt continue to teach! The most important experience for me and my career was the hiring of Dean Valerie Kinloch. The transformation of the School of Education at Pitt has been absolutely amazing. I remember hearing her speak during her first year and thinking, “this is what I needed to want to remain in the field and to remain at Pitt!” So, I am happy to say, that the changes that I can make are a part of the changes that we are being led to make under Dean Kinloch at Pitt. The PittEd Justice Collective was formed this past summer and our Center for Urban Education continues to play a big role in the city and across the country. Pittsburgh needed these transformative moments, for education, the university and the entire city!!
I hope for the continuation of the positive movements that have occurred over these past years to bring understanding and truth to people. Young people remind me of when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. Students often ask why they were never taught much of what I teach about history and its effect on education in this country. I hope that all of our PK-12 schools can alter their teaching of history and begin to teach the truth about slavery, colonization of indigenous peoples, immigration and racism. If we can teach this honestly and openly in schools our children will grow up understanding the trauma that has been placed on many of our people. This can help to break down unjust structures and systems that continue to create inequities and injustices.