I teach everything from game design and comics to anthropology and cartography. I tend to not think about my teaching with respect to specific academic disciplines, and my hope as an educator is that my students advance their thinking in discipline-agnostic ways. It’s liberating to be able to truly connect with my students’ curiosity and passions. The challenge there is that I cannot call myself a specialist in any particular area, and I’m not sure if that lack of expertise makes me a stronger or weaker teacher.
Tell us about any special projects or initiatives you are most proud of this year.
This year has been especially exciting because I’ve been able to develop a new class called Global Feminism that examines the rights and lives of women around the world. Student feedback has been really useful in considering how to approach the class, and I think many of my students have changed their thinking about what it means to be a feminist.
Over the course of your career, what do you consider some of your greatest accomplishments to date?
At the middle school where I began my teaching career, I created an event called Dot-to-Dot that asked all 850 of our students to develop a project that responded to a community problem. Those projects, which ranged from documentaries to protests, were truly situated in the world. I now coordinate the Senior Projects program at the iSchool and have helped students launch more than 100 self-initiated projects ranging from campaigns and custom T-shirts to museum-quality exhibits and mobile apps. Also, my colleague and I received a Fund for Teachers grant to travel to Southeast Asia last year. That trip was an incredible experience that’s changed my practice.
What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work as a teacher on a daily basis?
I am struck every day by the immense privilege I have to imagine what’s possible in my classroom and to try to make it happen. In what other profession could I take 25 teenagers to try dim sum in Chinatown? Or inquire about whether the blank billboard I can see across the street from my school could be turned into a canvas for a class project? Or help dozens of young people screen print their own T-shirts?
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