First, I wish you Happy New Year and welcome you to the start of the spring 2019 semester!
As the semester commences, many of you are working hard towards receiving yet another degree, achieving yet another milestone, and making yet another long-lasting impact. I wish you much success whether you just started a program or are about to finalize a tremendous accomplishment in completing your Masters’ Degree in Education.
As you continue to strive for greatness, please remember that as leaders in education, you have accepted a huge responsibility to ensure that education is accessible and equitable for all learners. That, in and of is itself, is YOUR social justice act.
Second, I wish to welcome you to the second edition of ReRighting Education Newsletter published by students in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies and Instructional Technologies (ELSIT) under the leadership of faculty and mentor, Dr. Irina Okhremtchouk. This newsletter is designed to highlight the learning, teaching, research and curriculum developments of students, faculty and staff of ELSIT. It is meant to be a platform of scholarship that is inclusive and shares our (ELSIT) fundamental goals of equity and social justice.
Editor's Note: Why ReRighting Education?
Dear Colleagues & Readers,
I would like to welcome you to the second issue of ReRighting Education Newsletter!
The ReRighting Education Newsletter is a student-led effort that was conceived by San Francisco State University (SFSU) graduate students in the Equity, Leadership Studies, and Instructional Technologies Department with the overarching goal of enriching student life and learning on SFSU campus.
In this issue, you will find a number of highlights about the work that ELSIT students, alumni, and professors are engaged in both on campus and in their communities. You will also learn, as many of you already know from deep personal ties to these issues, how hard it is for many of us to educate others and ourselves when we are pulled in so many different directions and are struggling in so many other ways.
As you read this issue, I would also like to extend an invitation to you to get involved in ReRighting Education efforts and become part of our team, cause, and movement.
Do you have information on a current or former ELSIT student (including yourself) who is doing incredible work that others should learn about? Do you want to join forces with us to amplify the voices of the incredible folks in our learning community? Let us know!
Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!
Teresa Hernandez didn’t just want this for herself. As the first person in her family to earn a college degree, she wanted to be a role model for her sisters, showing them that women of color belong in the academy. So, she began San Francisco State University’s Equity and Social Justice in Education MA program immediately after college, working full time, and living with sorority sisters who were completing their undergraduate degrees, in Daly City. It seemed like the perfect situation, until it started to unravel.
Struggling under the balancing act of work and school, living a very different life from her housemates, and with no close family members who understood what she was going through, she felt like a fraud. “It is beyond difficult to find the motivation to continue on when you feel like an outcast and as if you lack intelligent ideas to contribute to class discussions,” she says.
Thankfully, she was in the right place in the ELSIT program. “It honestly was the faculty of the program who pushed that out of my head.” They taught Ms. Hernandez that right answers were a tool used to condition students, and that there was value in exploring oneself in the context of academia.
But then, this fall, while she was working on her culminating experience, with her MA degree in sight, Ms. Hernandez was evicted from her home. Facing homelessness, relying on friends to put a roof over her head, she cried for days, unable to reach out to her family for help. “This was not something I could openly speak about with my parents. I assisted them any way I could the entire time and I didn’t have the heart to tell them I had just been evicted.”
Throughout all of this, she fought her way through, and in December of 2018, Teresa Hernandez earned her MA degree in Equity and Social Justice in Education from SFSU. “It seems unreal that throughout everything I can actually say I wrote a thesis, lived in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., been evicted, worked full time, and still managed to finish."
Ms. Hernandez’s story is one of perseverance, struggle, resistance, and trailblazing. She saw the lack of women of color in the academy and decided to fill the void herself. She faced obstacles that could easily have been too much to bear, and she overcame them. And while her story illuminates her tenacity, it also shines a light on the structural barriers that make breaking through this web of obstacles impossible on a grand scale.
In his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Mazlow described a hierarchy of needs that must be met in order for human beings to reach their full potential. At the most basic level, we require food, water, housing, and safety. Once our physical needs are (sustainably) met, we must attend to our emotional needs, such as feeling a sense of belonging and love, as well as feeling pride and accomplishment. Only then can we self-actualize, becoming who we are meant to be.
While Mazlow arranged these needs in a hierarchical triangle, with one layer resting on the foundations beneath, Ms. Hernandez’s story points out how interconnected they are, and how susceptible today’s graduate students are to having the whole thing fall apart. In Ms. Hernandez’s case, housing (level 1) was actually, in part, a function of a pre-existing friendship with her housemates (L3). But when she lost her housing (L1), she felt unsafe (L2), and couldn’t reach out to family (L3) because they needed her to support them and their basic needs (L1). At the same time, it was friends (L3) who let her stay with them when her housing fell through (L1). At times, she felt like a fraud (L4), which made it difficult for her to self-actualize (L5). In the end, self-actualizing (L5) in the form of achieving her MA degree, will hopefully provide her with more housing/food/etc. security in the future (L1-2). For those who aren’t able to overcome the shaky foundations in order to succeed, the negative outcome can shake the foundations further still.
For Jalen Sharp, a lecturer in SFSU’s Health and Social Science Department and an MA candidate in the same program as Ms. Hernandez, who moved to California for the program with her husband, the stress of housing/food insecurity could be overwhelming at times. “It almost seems as if they take up the same parts of my mind that I need to be a good student,” she explains, illustrating “what little brain power I feel I have to spare for my education when I am concerned with housing and food.”
For Laura Beam McKinney, a paraeducator at a middle school in San Francisco and a full-time ELSIT student, health has been the biggest obstacle. Ms. McKinney has been living with an autoimmune disease that impacts every aspect of her life. “It causes joint pain and damage, skin issues, fatigue, brain fog, and numerous other problems,” she explains. In order to make graduate school work, she left her salaried position for her hourly job as a para. During the switch, she experienced multiple lapses in health care coverage that twice deprived her for more than a month of the life-changing medication she relies on. “This made it very difficult to concentrate on reading, work, and getting all of my assignments done, because the pain was often overwhelming. More than the pain, the worry that I wouldn’t be able to get my medicine was overwhelming.”
For Cassandra Lane, a 5th grade teacher and a student in the Marin cohort of the Educational Administration MA program, following up a full work day with back-to-back SFSU classes has been a challenge. “I struggle to explain my exhaustion to 26 eager elementary students the next morning. Why should it matter to them that I essentially crammed two full school days into one long Tuesday.”
For me, parenting has taken the biggest hit. The first thing that my kids ask me every morning is whether or not they are going to see me again before tomorrow. Each time, I can see them physically bracing for my response.
According to a 2016 study conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), 60% of MA students experience financial stress during graduate school. Fifty-two percent of minoritized students borrow money to go to graduate schools, and the Federal Reserve of New York predicts that student loan debt will hit the $2 trillion mark by the year 2022. Meanwhile, these same minoritized students often experience a web of physical and intellectual isolation, neglect, and stratification while in graduate school that have an impact on their experience and the likelihood that they will complete their studies (Carolann, 2007; Gay, 2004).
We, as a nation, do not pay for students to pursue graduate degrees, nor do we provide health care, basic wages, housing, or food to everyone who needs them. This country, in which the twin myths of meritocracy and equal opportunity have led us to neoliberal policies that shred the social safety net (a safety net that was never equally available to everyone) under the guise of freedom from government intervention, allows its residents to hang by a thread as they pursue their own versions of greatness.
This is a perilous time for a country that has seen (and whitewashed) a treacherous history. But, as we head into 2019, there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. One of them lies in the incoming congress, not necessarily the makeup of the political parties, but the platforms of some of the newly elected, many of whom are young women of color, and the conversations that have moved from the periphery a little closer to the main stage. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), who both identify as Democratic Socialists, talk about universal healthcare and wages, dismantling ICE and the military-industrial complex, and environmental justice.
Another is here, in the students, faculty, and alumni of SFSU’s ELSIT program. There’s the way we show up for each other: Ms. Hernandez’s advisor, Dr. Min-yeh Lee, understood “how new and daunting pursuing a Masters is for students like me, and never once made me feel marginalized for it.” Ms. Sharp has been “fortunate enough to have met individuals who have gone above and beyond to help us acclimate in a variety of ways. Those ways have included everything from rides to work to full-blown rent help.” Ms. Lane is grateful “to be completing this program with a colleague, so that we can support each other through the madness of two full-time activities.” Ms. McKinney summed it up well when she said, “I don’t think I could have done it without my peers within my program. I am so grateful for this community.”
And, there’s the mission of our program, dedicated, not simply to helping students break barriers, but to dismantling the structures that keep so many others from breaking through. Ms. Hernandez is currently working as an academic advisor at SFSU and is considering pursuing her doctorate degree. Ms. McKinney, inspired in part by her work as a paraprofessional, is pursuing her Special Education credential. Ms. Lane is working on research that highlights the ways that intersectional students get stuck in ELL classification in the long-term. As for Ms. Sharp, she is teaching at SFSU and loving it, and looking forward to a future that includes educational research. A future that will include these women as leaders in the field of education is surely, in my book, a hopeful one.
ELSIT Alum & 2018 SFSU/GCOE Graduation Keynote speaker Tina K. Lagdamen is ELSIT department's newest faculty member
by Cassandra Lane
ReRighting Education Associate Editor
Tina K. Lagdamen is returning to SFSU as ELSIT’s newest faculty member to teach aspiring school administrators in the Educational Administration Program.
An award-winning principal, Ms. Lagdamen, who serves SFUSD’s Bessie Carmichael PreK-8/Filipino Education Center, its students and community, brings a wealth of experience and extensive knowledge as well as her dynamic way of teaching and facilitating - all of which will have a long-lasting impact on future leaders.
In her 2018 commencement speech, Ms. Lagdamen highlighted the injustices she experienced as a child and then as a woman of color as well as how these experiences have led her to embrace the field of Education as an agent of change, first through classroom teaching and then as educational leader. Ms. Lagdamen reminded graduates to “remove the three D’s – Defiant, disruptive, dangerous from [our] vocabulary… so that students, specifically our black and brown children, are not sent to the office for these reasons alone.” She said, “I came to this work to ensure that all children are perceived only as children, not as criminals, and that they are permitted the privilege of their childhood.”
Among many accomplishments, Ms. Lagdamen consulted for World Bank, was a recipient of the United Administrators of San Francisco's Outstanding New Principal of the Year award, and the Hayward Education Fund.
ELSIT Department Spotlights
For many of us, the draw of the ELSIT department really begins with its interdisciplinary nature and the focus across the board on educational justice. One of the reasons I chose this program was because students bring such a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, passions, and knowledge. It is incredible to learn about the ways in which some of my peers are impacting policy while others are changing students’ lives inside their classrooms, while still others are helping children find hope while in juvenile detention centers.
At the same time, as someone who is majoring in Equity and Social Justice in Education, I haven’t always known what was going on in, say, the Instructional Technologies wing of the department. Because communication and interconnectedness are essential in social justice work, here, we aim to shine a light on every corner of the department.
Coordinated by Dr. Doris Flowers, the concentration in adult education focuses on education that happens outside the K-12 system. Students enrolled pursue careers in two-year and four-year colleges and universities, law enforcement, the military, and community-based and workplace-based educational organizations. The model is centered around the theoretical model of andragogy (learning styles/needs/etc. that are specific to adults) and social justice. Justice must be a foundational component of adult education because many of those served have been mis-served by the K-12 system, and those experiences can deeply influence the ways in which adults feel about and experience education as an adult. Students take classes such as ISED 736, “Leadership and Policy for Community and Non-Formal Education” and ISED 781, “Educational Praxis: Curriculum Development and Pedagogies.”
The Educational Administration Tier I Credential + MA degree is coordinated by Dr. Irina Okhremtchouk, and focuses on developing school leaders who can address the complex realities facing schools and students in these trying times. Working with emerging leaders to help them, for example, apply the law in their schools while doing so in a way that centers racial, economic, LGBTQIA2, and ability (among others) justice is a major challenge, particularly in those areas where justice and the law are either in conflict with each other or are not clearly in alignment. Students in the EDAD program can choose between getting their administrative credential, their MA, or both, and they take classes such as EDAD 733, “Curricular Leadership for Multicultural Education” and EDAD 763, “Law and Education.”
The program recently held two Welcome Sessions to welcome 54 new students for Spring '19 semester -- a two-cohort model, one on main campus and one at SFSU/EDAD's Marin satellite campus -- a Marin Leadership Institute (or MLI) managed by Dr. Valerie Pitts, MLI Coordinator.
Equity and Social Justice in Education
Equity and Social Justice in Education, coordinated by Dr. Ming-yeh Lee, focuses on the theory, history, and politics of race and ethnicity, economic background, LGBTQIA2, ability, language, and more in relationship to the field of education. Students study the theory and research of luminaries, such as Paolo Freire, Audre Lorde, bel hoods, Carter G. Woodson, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Lisa Delpit, Gloria Anzaldua, and Daniel Solorzano, among many, many others, in an attempt to interrogate and disrupt the overlapping systems of oppression facing students today and to work towards transformational, emancipatory education. Students in this program take classes such as ISED 738, “Critical and Postmodern Pedagogies,” and ISED 748, “Culture, Cognition, and Power Issues in Education.”
Coordinated by Dr. Zahira Merchant, this program focuses on the use of educational technology to further educational justice, including but not limited to online and hybrid learning models, instructional design using technology for teachers and schools in the K-20 system, web design and gaming, and augmented reality. Not surprisingly, this program is taught in a primarily online/hybrid format, and so it is the program most supportive of distance learners. Just this year, ITEC graduates have earned signficant Instructional Design positions at UCSF, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. Our department has set up partnerships for student interns with three departments at UCSF and with Holy Names University in Oakland. Students in this program take classes such as ITEC 800, “Theoretical Foundations of Instructional Technologies,” and ITEC 816, “Designing Digital Learning Spaces of the Future.”
Special Interest Area
Coordinated by Drs. Deborah Curtis and Helen Hyun, this is the most flexible of the programs offered by the ELSIT department, and students who begin in one of the other programs sometimes find their way here so that they can take interdisciplinary learning to the next level. Students in Special Interests design their course of study with their advisor, choosing from a variety of classes from within the department, but they also have the option of adding classes from other departments, such as women and gender studies, Africana Studies, Raza studies, etc.
Professors head to the border to shine a light on family separations
ReRighting Education Editorial Board
On July 4, 2018, while people all over the United States were firing up grills, stocking up on solo cups, and setting up folding chairs to watch fireworks displays, San Francisco State University ELSIT department professor Dr. Irina Okhremtchouk traveled to southern Texas with Dr. Marta Induni, Senior Director of Research at Public Health Institute and ELSIT faculty, to bear witness to the latest way our nation was failing to live up to the values expressed in its founding documents, those very same values purportedly being celebrated on “Independence Day.”
Infuriated by the then-recent news of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” separating children and parents at the border, Drs. Okhremtchouk and Induni expected to find protesters and media outlets everywhere, and even clashes between outraged people and Border Patrol agents. Instead, they found nothing-to-see-here, move-along absence: Vast, mostly empty, parking lots effectively blocked by flimsy “keep out” signs and know-nothing guards; buildings with reflective windows and signs forbidding cell-phone use; statues of children playing making a mockery of the real-life, traumatized children hidden from view; and, on day two, a bus filled with unaccompanied children crossing the Mexican border.
The only presence that they witnessed was that of capitalism. Casa Padre, which years ago had employed Wal-Mart greeters and shelf-stockers and check-out folks, was now employing security guards and bus drivers and processors of imprisoned children. At McAllen, where children under the age of five are held, official photos of President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Neilson overlooked the entry way and the “Welcome” sign. Welcome to pain, to trauma, and to the ugly truths undergirding the United States of America.
In her seminal work, Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua called the US-Mexico border an “open wound,” one that would continue to be a site of violence, exploitation, and death until it was healed.
In just another episode of colonial, imperial thievery, President Trump stole her words and used them as a weapon this past New Year’s Eve in a tweet demanding his border wall intended to make that wound permanent.
As we learn more every day about the lies (the number of separations hidden from we, the people continues to grow) and the cruelty (the sicknesses and death, the abuse, the forbidding of comforting touch between children, the tent cities, the lack of records), we see these children and these families, and we commit to building a world that sees and centers the humanity and the agency of the dispossessed.
ELSIT Students & Alumni Making Waves
Ziyang (Jack) Li wins SFUSD Teacher of the Year Award
Ziyang (Jack) Li was chosen as a 2017-18 Mayor’s Teacher of the Year Award winner for the San Francisco Unified School District. Jack is a third grade Mandarin immersion teacher at Starr King Elementary School.
He grew up speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese in China. After graduating from the University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, he came to San Francisco to pursue a MA in Education (Special Interest) in the ELSIT Department and a Multiple
Subject teaching credential in the Elementary Education Department in the Graduate College of Education at San Francisco State University. He participated in a special joint MA-Credential program with SFSU and South China Normal University that was pioneered by former Dean Jacob Perea and the ELSIT faculty (Drs. Ming-yeh Lee and David Hemphill).
Originally, Jack had planned to be a high school teacher, but when he got a job to teach at Starr King Elementary, he fell in love with the school, the staff, and the kids, so he decided to stay. Having the experience of starting a language at a young age, he wants the children in San Francisco to have the same experience as he did.
Cassandra Lane & Jenny Levine-Smith receive CERA Graduate Student research awards
In November 2018, two ELSIT graduate students, Jenny Levine-Smith and Cassandra Lane, presented their research findings and received Graduate Student Research Grant Awards at the California Educational Research Association’s Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, with the support of their faculty advisor, Dr. Irina Okhremtchouk. Both students’ research focuses on California’s reclassification guidelines for English learners, which are very flexible and allow for broad differences in district interpretation.
Ms. Levine-Smith studied the effects of language on reclassification criteria. Her findings suggest that districts with predominantly Spanish-speaking language minority populations have significantly
greater academic requirements for reclassification than districts with predominant language minority populations from Northern and Western European countries. Ms. Levine-Smith points out that these language-based trends exist despite the fact that each district’s policy “is created in a vacuum.”
Ms. Lane’s study focuses on the effects of reclassification policies on intersectional English learners, students who are both classified as language minority students and students with disabilities. Her preliminary findings suggest that intersectional students are generally classified as English learners much longer than their non-disabled language minority peers. This study is ongoing, and the final results will be presented in April at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Toronto. “I am looking forward to presenting my final research, which has the potential to guide districts to create more equitable policies that support all of their learners.”
In addition to presenting their research, Levine-Smith and Lane were both awarded Graduate Student Research Grants to support their research. Ms. Lane intends to use this grant to finish her study for presentation at the AERA conference in April. Ms. Levine-Smith is using her grant money to conduct a critical ethnographic discourse analysis of a rural school district in Northern California with a split enrollment of 60% Latinx students and 40% Anglo students. “Winning this award was a great vote of confidence from my peers in the research community,” stated Ms. Levine-Smith.
Cassandra Lane is currently earning her MA degree in Educational Administration while teaching fifth grade in San Rafael, California. Jenny Levine-Smith is earning her MA in Equity and Social Justice in Education and currently applying for PhD programs to continue her studies.
Quinn Solis, a current ELSIT MA student focusing on Special Interests, who has served as the director of the Queer & Trans Resource Center at San Francisco State University this year, has accepted a position as the Associate Director of LGBT Resources at UC Santa Barbara. They will continue to work on their thesis research exploring how transgender students of color at SFSU build resilience.
Grecia Solis Pacheco, an alum of the MA Equity and Social Justice program has begun a new job as the Youth & Education Programs Manager at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and has completed a year-long Rising Leaders Fellowship, which is dedicated to helping current and future leaders develop skills necessary to work towards equity and justice in outdoor and environmental education.
Jalen Sharp, an MA in Equity and Social Justice student, in addition to lecturing in the College of Health and Social Science at San Francisco State University, has just become a contributing writer for the publication, "Her Agenda."
Hemphill, D. (2019). English language learning in globalized third spaces: From monocultural standardization to hybridized translanguaging. In D. Macedo (Ed.), Decolonizing foreign language education: The misteaching of English and other colonial languages. New York: Rutledge.
Lane, C.*, Levine-Smith, J.*, & Okhremtchouk, I. (in preparation) Disproportionality of English Learners in Special Education: California Reclassification Policies and Effects on Intersectional Students.
Levine-Smith, J.*, Lane, C.*, & Okhremtchouk, I. (under review). California Public Schools: A Socially Just or Inherently Unjust System that Perpetuates Inequalities? Primary Languages of English Language Learners and District Reclassification Criteria.
Okhremtchouk, I., Jimenez, R., &Levine-Smith, J.*(Eds.). (accepted/forthcoming 2019). Leadership for social justice and equity in educational and community contexts [Special issue]. Journal of School Public Relations.
Perea, J-C., & Perea, J. (2019). 'What the Music Could Be’: Revisiting the Unexpectedness of Jim Pepper. Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies.
California Educational Research Association Graduate Student Research Grant Award, November, 2018
Cassandra Lane*, Graduate Student ($1,000)
Jenny Levine-Smith*, Graduate Student ($1,000)
Grants Submitted/Under Review
Jenny Levine-Smith* has applied for the Ford Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for students in or applying to PhD programs. If awarded, the grant is valid for a three-year term and a total of $24,000 per year.
Lane, C.*, Levine-Smith, J.*, & Okhremtchouk, I. (2018). Disproportionality of English Language Learners in Special Education: California Reclassification Policies and Effects on Intersectional Students. Paper presented at California Educational Research Association (CERA) annual meeting in Anaheim, CA.
Lee, M-Y. (2018). Development Workshop. Dharma Drum Mountain Senior Volunteers.
Levine-Smith, J.*, Lane, C.*, & Okhremtchouk, I. (2018). California Public Schools: Primary Languages of English Language Learners and District Reclassification. Paper presented at California Educational Research Association (CERA) annual meeting in Anaheim, CA.