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My path to educational work was unconventional, steeped in inquiry and experience, but uniquely captured my passions and skills. The purpose of this section is to provide that context.

Why I Teach: Text


Why I Teach: Welcome


While I have served as an educator for most of my professional career, my work as an explorer and conveyor of ideas began long before that. Whether as a high school student myself, an undergraduate researcher, an intelligence analyst, or - yes - a classroom educator, I have always sought to question, challenge perceptions, and consider multiple perspectives.

If there is a single moment that led me to work as an educator, (brace yourself for a cliché) it was 9/11. I was in eighth grade in the suburbs, didn't even know what the World Trade Center was, and have a distinct memory of my math teacher explaining that "the terrorists hated us because we were rich - that was why they had attacked financial centers." This didn't make sense and turned out to be generally false, so I kept reading, digging, and working to build understandings.

Unfortunately, high school provided the opportunity to have my teachers convey partial understandings many more times - particularly regarding wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. The questions this generated for me led to deep independent inquiry as well as a desire to study history at the undergraduate level.

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Why I Teach: About


Despite the turns my life has taken as an adult, I went to college looking for simple, traditional stability - I grew up with economic uncertainty at home and I sought a steady, livable income.  I attended university intending to become a Social Studies teacher and stay close to home - a plan I would give up within a year due to a series of inspired history professors, and uninspired teacher trainers.

Since I wasn't tied to student teaching and state certification coursework (don't worry - I did that later) I had a great deal of freedom and support to mature as a thinker, writer, traveler, and communicator.  During this time I traveled to 11 countries - studying for a year in Australia, doing research on Indian-Pakistani border tensions in Punjab, trekking with orangoutangs in Sumatra, and completing independent thesis research related to accountability for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I gained interpersonal and professional skills in grant writing in order to support these learning opportunities, setting the foundations for some professional relationships that continue to deepen student learning and engagement to this day.

My undergrad experience not only honed my passion for and skill at travel but my commitment to telling the stories of those who are suffering and forgotten.  This is still a primary motivator for my work today.

Why I Teach: About
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Why I Teach: Gallery


Graduating from university in 2010 with coursework and practical knowledge of conflicts in South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central Africa led to a brief stint in political intelligence.  On one level this work was highly engaging, but it was not fulfilling - I was writing reports people would either not act on or would use to advance their political agendas which might be devastating for the people in the region.  Political tensions in Beirut led to my position being eliminated for security reasons, but by that time I had already secured a spot at Teachers College, Columbia University to complete my masters.

I deferred my acceptance in order to travel to more of the places I had researched, and broaden my perspective.  During this time I spent six weeks on the Iberian Peninsula, a month in Scandanavia, four months in the Mediterranian Middle East, a month learning to sail up the coast of British Columbia, and five months in South America.

This was not simply leisure travel - one of my strengths is establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships - former professors put me in contact with historians, academics, thought leaders, and journalists on the ground in the Middle East and South America, and I found myself archiving the stories of survivors of Sabra and Shatila, of gas attacks during the Iran Iraq Wars, of victims of both rebel militias and government agents across the South American continent, and more.

In the process, I gained more thought partners and collaborative assets, setting a foundation for work I would do inside and outside of the classroom.

Why I Teach: About
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Why I Teach: Gallery


Columbia brought me to New York - my home in a way that no other place in the world has rivaled.  The City provided me with a network of people from all over the world who were at the cutting edge of innovation in their fields.  Manhattan provided infinite thought-leaders to learn from and engage with.

While studying at Teachers College, I once again had the opportunity to travel extensively with the focus of undertaking comparative analyses of educations facing various political, religious/ethnic, and economic limitations.  This was also the year of Occupy Wall Street, and the city was in flux.  My research and travels overseas gave me a deeper perspective on educational inequalities in the world, and student teaching in elite magnet schools and under-served public schools in the poorest congressional district in the nation deepened my sense of this divide.  I volunteered with the National Lawyers Guild documenting arrests, in Zuccotti Park distributing meals at night, and monitoring interactions between protestors and police.

This was the year my work ethic was solidified - I had friends and colleagues getting arrested downtown, a close friend was killed in Palestine, the City was on edge, and I was student teaching in the Bronx.  My students had seen friends get arrested, or worse, throughout their lives, and their neighborhoods experienced the threat of violence in ways that mine did not.  I had spent years talking to people who were tortured, disenfranchised, or abused - and I was entering a career in which I would be able to counter that in the future through building relationships with kids, bridging gaps between cultures, and making content relevant in a way that brought it to life and exposed students to the most important issues of their time.

My experiences in New York City, both as a formal and informal educator, contribute to my passion for teaching social studies with a focus on relevance to contemporary issues, both in the world at large and in students' daily lives.

Why I Teach: About

International Learning

While international educators are inherently among the privileged when it comes to world travel, I have had the opportunity to gain deep, on-the-ground experience all over our diverse and conflicted planet, all of it self-initiated and led (represented below).  I am not the kind of traveler who works to check countries off of a "list," but rather one who builds strong, lasting relationships within the places I have been privileged enough to be, and who brings those relationships into the classroom to create a truly international learning experience, wherever I teach.

I believe strongly that international education shouldn't be primarily about travel, but the skills and insights that I have gained while spending time in some of the most influential and misunderstood places on our planet brings relevance and depth to my classroom which students often highlight as "reshaping their relationship with social studies."

Why I Teach: Image

The work I do in the classroom is a continuation of this spirit

You're invited to visit the "In Action" link for more on this, or click here.

Why I Teach: Quote
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