Since 2016, I have designed and taught online and onsite courses for preservice and practicing special educators grounded in a strength-based anti-racist approach. I name the settler-colonial, racist, transphobic, and otherwise oppressive systems of domination that govern the lives of myself and my students to build anti-racist classrooms for preservice and practicing teachers that can heal as much as they educate. This is key as a heteronormative eurocentric lens often permeates the literature about students with disabilities and forms the basis of prejudice, victimization, and discrimination toward groups including but not limited to BIPOC and LGBTQI+, leading to population-specific mental health challenges and the over and under-representation of groups in special education. It is also important for educators to know that various forms of systemic oppression lead to or heighten the impact of trauma (e.g., racialized, gender-based, the trauma of poverty, etc.) and ensuing mental health for caregivers and children. For example, anti-trans/homophobic attacks/laws in the media, regular school shootings, the ongoing state/police violence against Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian Pacific Islander community members, etc.
To illustrate, based on race and ethnicity, youth experience differences in the severity of mental health symptoms: Black teens have disproportionately higher rates of suicide than white teens (Price & Khubchandani, 2019), and students of color who are also LGBTQI+ often have significantly more severe mental health needs (Themindclan.com, 2022). Further, there are differences among communities, by race and ethnicity, in how individuals seek, access, and use mental health services (DeFreitas et al., 2018). Therefore, it should not be surprising that according to federal data, students of color are over-represented in the Emotional Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) population yet underrepresented in the Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) disability area. Further, Black girls are suspended at a rate six times higher than their white female peers. Based on these experiences, children and youth of color often have poorer outcomes than white peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). These disparaging outcomes are largely due to systems of oppression (systemic racism/white supremacy, patriarchy, systematized homophobia, capitalism, etc.) of persistent systemic inequalities manifesting in our society and trickling into our schools.
In a time when it is trendy to talk about equity, I do more than that as I create equitable learning experiences for my students to nurture their learning and growth as anti-racist educators. This is particularly important for me as my students are not only learning, but they are learning to teach, and the pedagogical experiences I provide are likely ones they will take to their K-12 classrooms. My pedagogical practice is guided by the understanding that all students bring their unique lived experiences and identities into learning spaces—drawing on the scholarship of Gloria Langston Billings, Felicia Rose Chavez, Lorena Escoto German, bell hooks, Bettina Love, and Ghouldy Muhammad. Rather than seeking to construct a safe, conflict-free zone, I focus on generating a dialogue open to tension and disagreement–what Ludlow calls a “contested space,” a classroom supports rather than staves off conflict (Ludlow 40; McIntyre 88). The critical engagement of different and even conflicting experiences and perspectives results in richer knowledge, so a classroom goal is communicating [across] differences. With that, I view my students as individuals with nuanced worldviews and ways of knowing, and emotions are also acknowledged as part of what it means to know and how we learn.
With this pedagogical outlook, I strive to make every element of my courses engaging, accessible, and challenging for each student, with the formation and nurturing of the community as the core leading to engagement and deep learning. My students and I learn with and from one another, co-constructing knowledge–communal and contingent–together. Regardless of the course, I aim to design authentic project-based experiences that allow students to collaborate, be reflexive, discuss tensions in the field, all while sharing their lived experiences (I call this "adding texture.")
Here's what former students have shared about their experiences in courses I have facilitated...
"I would like to thank you for taking the time to get to know us. You are the first professor I have had who has created space for us to share about ourselves and to make it a more human experience even though we are online. It means a lot for you to make it a priority to get to know your students."
“This course was one of the more challenging classes I have taken, but with excellent instructor support, it became possible. I appreciated the encouragement, zoom meetings, and emails to support my work. I was also thankful for the flexibility provided by the instructor, as I always knew that you would work with me to fix things, and if I needed more time for an assignment, that was okay. The accommodations provided helped me to succeed and complete the course! I am very thankful to have received such support! Thank you!”
“As a professor, you were amazing. This is not an easy class to teach, and you supported your students. You were accessible throughout the course, and I cannot thank you enough for your help along the way! Thank you so much for all your help and dedication to ensuring your students were supported.”
“I feel like I was able to grow in this class, and I felt challenged enough. What I appreciated was the grace this class offers while you are learning. I am not sure if you are the one who set it up that way, but I appreciated it. I work hard, and my grades mean a lot to me, so to be allowed to fix my mistakes and learn from them was super helpful.”
“I have always struggled with online courses, but the way you laid this one out was really beneficial to me. Your communication patterns helped me be as successful as I have with this course. The way you outlined this course helped put all the pieces together, and I truly felt this course was like a puzzle, whereby at the end, you finally put the last piece in and have that “ah-ha” moment, and it all comes together. The discussions and peer feedback, along with being able to see what others are doing, were also constructive in shaping my own work. It helped me visualize my thoughts and ensure I was on track with what I was supposed to be doing and that things were looking correct. Your videos and reminder emails helped shape the course, and I enjoyed both of those things!”
“I enjoyed having this class with you and how you laid it out. You have it shaped perfectly to align everything and tie it up at the end. You offer tremendous support to your students, and it is clear you are here to see success in them! I appreciate that and the hard work you put into this course! “
“I’ve genuinely appreciated the opportunity to modify and tweak my assignments as I went along. I felt each assignment was a small piece of the bigger picture, and I loved that I could make changes as I went along. There wasn’t an instant grade - there was always an opportunity for improvement. I’ve valued the feedback you’ve provided with each assignment. I like how we did not receive points until we could work through the recommendations and resubmit. You made this course very informative and enjoyable."
As mentioned, I mostly design and teach online courses for preservice and practicing special educators. I also support teacher candidates while they complete their student teaching, occasionally teaching research methods courses, and recently, I expanded my practice to include teaching a data analytics course.
Below are some examples of courses I've regularly taught, and under each course, I have included some artifacts - a syllabus and a video.
SPED 758: Methods of Adaptive Instruction
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Three graduate (masters level) credits. In this course, students observe, research, and reflect upon methods, strategies, and materials for adapting curricula to meet the learning needs of students with mild to severe high-incidence exceptional educational needs. Emphasizes knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to evaluate students' academic and social needs, research and design appropriate curricula, make modifications and adaptations throughout and across curricula, differentiate curriculum and instruction, and use research-based teaching strategies. Students modify an existing curricular element and practice the modification with one or more students in the field.
Weekly Instructor Insights Video (32:47)
In this course, I challenge students to bring a critical lens to the experiences they and their students have had in classrooms - and get at some of those "tensions in the field."
SPED 760: Behavior Analysis and Intervention
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Three graduate (masters level) credits. This course concerns functional behavioral assessment, identifying the reasons for problem behavior, and developing a behavior plan. We will begin by investigating typical social, emotional, and behavioral development and the factors that influence this development. The role of identity, adult perceptions, and the classroom and school-wide systems in supporting students will be investigated. Including systems of oppression that lead to an overrepresentation and underrepresentation of groups in our K-12 schools while feeding the "school to prison pipeline." Then we will apply this foundational knowledge throughout the rest of the course as we learn how to support students who struggle in these areas by developing Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs), and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) and using these tools to drive student goals and programming.
A student messaged me this a few weeks after SPED 760 ended: "I want to let you know that the behavior plan we worked on last term went very well with my student. Yay! So much so that a few staff have to ask me what is happening. Nice!"
SPED 780/TED 750: Action Research Methods
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Three graduate (masters level) credits. Focus on research methodology and topics specific to the field of education. Highlight both qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods designs. Students complete an action research project plan surrounding an issue of interest/need in your classroom or program using a single subject design. Also, examine existing research and determine how it may apply to your classroom/program.
EFR 535: DATA ANALYTICS and VISUALIZATION with R
University of North Dakota
Three graduate (masters & doctoral level) credits. R is an increasingly popular open-source programming language with powerful data analytics and visualization packages. In this course, students will master R fundamentals, including installation, programming techniques, reading data files, and basic statistics. The fundamentals of data visualization will then be covered, such as theory, applications, and examples. Finally, students will develop skills in data visualization techniques using R packages. Embedded are perspectives and scholarship from groups (e.g., women and people of color) historically excluded from this space.
EFR 511: PROGRAM and POLICY EVALUATION
University of North Dakota
Three graduate (doctoral level) credits. In this course, we will learn how to apply research methods to evaluate educational programs. The focus will be on pre-K to postsecondary educational programs, but programs through government agencies, nonprofits, and industry-relevant for public health or policy will also be considered. Students complete a research project of their choosing.
Future Courses & Opportunities
I am always interested in designing online courses, adjunct teaching opportunities, and authoring open-access textbooks—particularly those courses related to data science, research methodology, scholarly writing, and teacher preparation. Further, I am available to consult on topics related to K-16+ digital learning.