My philosophy as a teacher educator is grounded broadly in a sociocultural perspective. As with my research, I hold a multiliteracies perspective of learning and literacy. I view learning as a situated social practice wherein individuals’ learning experiences are mediated by social, cultural, and historical factors. I acknowledge the diverse conceptions of literacies across cultures and contexts as well as the multiple modes individuals can draw upon when making meaning.
My goals at the end of each course are 1) for pre-service and in-service teachers to critically consider and apply current theories and pedagogies, and 2) for pre-service and in-service teachers to focus on the needs and interests of their students in particular educational settings. To accomplish this, I incorporate assignments and experiences that require students to apply their learning in both critical and practical ways in order to prepare them for long-term career success. This approach has led to two Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) Teaching Excellence Award nominations—a competitive, university wide award to recognize excellence in graduate student teaching in all disciplines.
SECONDARY TEACHING EXPERIENCE
I have five years of secondary ELA teaching experience in Phoenix, Arizona. I spent four years teaching English language arts (ELA) at Precision Academy (PA), an under-resourced public charter school in Phoenix, Arizona that serves a linguistically and culturally diverse population. It was at PA that I first began to research literacy practices as a teacher researcher. I received an International Literacy Association Teacher as Researcher grant to support my study of how Young Adult Literature can be used as a scaffold to support students' reading of canonical literature.
At PA, I taught a number of course topics including American literature, British literature, 20th Century literature, World literature, Critical Reading, and Academic Writing. In my final year, I collaborated with Frank Serafini to conduct a second research study where we used ethnographic methods to consider how picturebooks can be used to scaffold students’ visual literacy skills in a high school English language arts (ELA) classroom. In this study, This study has been presented at the Literacy Research Association annual conference and at Phoenix Comicon. At Phoenix Comicon, four of the students who participated in the study joined us as co-presenters.
Prior to my four years at PA, I was an emergency hire halfway through the year at Amberlea Elementary in Avondale, Arizona where I taught 7th and 8th grade ELA for a little over a semester. It was here that I first began using comics in my classroom. Before working at Amberlea, I completed a semester of student teaching at Mountain Point High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
COLLEGE TEACHING EXPERIENCE
At ASU, I have taught Children’s Literature twice and Literacy Processes in Content Areas once. The syllabi for these courses can be found below. These syllabi are the official ASU syllabi approved for these courses. I have made some changes that were permitted by the course coordinator.
Children's Literature - Spring 2017
Literacy Processes in Content Areas - Fall 2017
Primarily, my students are pre-service teacher candidates, but since the Children's Literature course is also offered as a Humanities credit, I have had a few students from other disciplines. My teacher candidate students come from many different content areas and grade levels including elementary, special education, English language arts, secondary science, secondary social studies, secondary math, and dance.
In my classes, I incorporate assignments and experiences that build on and acknowledge students’ backgrounds. For example, in Children’s Literature, students start the semester by creating a Literacy Autobiography in which they record and reflect on their literacy experiences from a young age to present day. This assignment helps students to begin to understand their own perspectives on literacy and how their experiences shaped these perspectives. This assignment also provides me with insight into their knowledge of literacy learning. This insight allows me to refine my instruction with these students in mind.
I work with pre- and in-service teachers to develop an understanding for the needs and interests of diverse students in a variety of educational settings with the goal of ensuring equitable education for all learners. In Children’s Literature, for instance, students read multicultural picturebooks and chapter books and discuss the key issues centered around using such literature in elementary and secondary settings. In Literacy Process in Content Areas, I invited recent high school graduates from under-represented groups to share their experiences, both positive and negative, in Arizona classrooms. This was a powerful opportunity for students to share their voice and help illustrate the importance of social justice in literacy education for pre-service teachers.
My research and my teaching closely align. I purposefully incorporate knowledge gained from my own research into my instruction.. I infuse multimodal texts into students’ learning experiences and teach students different strategies for making sense of these complex texts. For instance, in Children’s Literature, students perform a Picturebook Analysis assignment in which they analyze visual components of a picturebook using Kress and van Leeuwen’s grammar of visual design and Scott McCloud’s comic book conventions. Students also draw on these concepts in their presentation of the Picturebook Analysis by incorporating the modes of printed language, image, and design into their analyses.
I also incorporate a number of technological experiences into my classes in an effort to model technology use in classrooms for students. One digital application that I find particularly useful for teaching is Slack, an app designed for groups and teams to assist team collaboration. While I monitored their discussions, literature circle groups in Children's Literature were able to have discussions with each other in real time on their smartphones over the course of several weeks, and students in Literacy Processes in the Content Areas were able to collaborate remotely in real time on a Interdisciplinary Curriculum Unit assignment. The app allowed me to monitor their progress, instantly answer questions, and track student participation.
With pre-service teachers in particular, it is important for students to critically consider the theories, pedagogies, and strategies they use in their classrooms as well as to apply those theories, pedagogies, and strategies. I require students to apply their learning in a variety of ways. In Literacy Processes in Content Areas, students apply their knowledge by evaluating lesson plans they designed in previous courses. Students provide justifications for each strategy and pedagogical move in these lesson plans and offer alternative strategies based on new learning. In Children's Literature, students used knowledge gained in class to evaluate the quality of picturebooks and chapter books that they were considering using in their future classrooms.
These experiences as well as my experience as a researcher prepare me to teach courses in secondary literacy and pedagogy, ELA theories and methods, visual and multimodal literacy, and Children's and young adult literature. My experiences teaching these students have also led me to understand the issues related to field experience observations, practicums, and student teaching internships.