“One Day Soon” Reflections from a Doctoral Fellow

Editor’s Note:

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is a proud partner of the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research (MCPER), established in 2013 with the University of Portland (UP). The partnership supports research that informs educators and policy makers on issues related to student learning and teacher practice.

Today, we hear from Zuly Naegele, a UP Doctoral Fellow conducting research in the field with the support of MCPER.

Did you know that in 2012, according to the American Association of University Professors, only 4% of tenured-track positions were held by Latinas?

Zuly NaegeleI am one of few Latinos in higher education and even fewer Latinas. According to the 2014 NSF Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities Report, of the 3% of Americans with a doctorate degree, only 7% are Latinos compared to 73% who are White. I hope to add to that number as I work to complete my Doctorate of Education and secure a tenured-track professorship “one day soon.”

My life as an educator began as a child. As the oldest of five and a member of a bilingual/bicultural family, I was given many responsibilities early on and had experiences that later proved valuable for me in the field of education. I don’t remember the exact moment that I realized I wanted to go to college, but I was young. My father left school in 10th grade to work at the local factory in El Paso, Texas and my mother has a 6th grade formal education from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and took various English classes throughout her life. My parents’ main wish for us was to finish high school and we all did. I made my goal of attending college known to family, friends, and teachers, and led the way as the first in my family to attend university. Both family members and teachers were supportive of my desire to study beyond high school. I will never forget the conversations I had growing up with my Tía Mary and how she encouraged me to study hard and follow my dreams.

I became a teacher almost by accident, fulfilling the need for bilingual teachers in Arizona, but realized that was my life’s calling. I taught middle school in central Phoenix and worked with Latino students and families. I recognized how important it is to have teachers of color in schools that reflect the classroom population. I realized that I had a special relationship with my students from that community because I could relate to their experiences and speak their language. Since then I have taught high school at a Native American charter school working with students from the Tohono O’odham Nation; taught at the university level at Arizona State University teaching first year seminar and leadership courses; and currently teach middle school Spanish in Portland Public Schools. I love teaching and building relationships with students and my desire for the future is to help increase the number of teachers of color in the field. My goal is to help accomplish that as a faculty member in higher education. Research shows (i.e., Simon, Johnson, & Reinhorn, 2015) that one way to increase the number of teachers of color is to increase the number of faculty of color in schools of education.

Today, my Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Portland, possible by a generous grant from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), continues to shape me as an educator. I conduct research as part of the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research (MCPER). I write reports on topics that are important to teachers and administrators in the partnership. As the first in my family to “one day soon” earn a doctoral degree, it is sometimes difficult to explain to them the work that I do as a fellow. My siblings often ask, “When will you be done?” instead of “What are you working on?” or “What is your dissertation about?” This type of work is rather new to me and I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it at first, but now, I can honestly say that I love it and feel passionate about the topics I am researching. Some of these district-driven reports include co-teaching to benefit English Language Learners, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, newcomer schools and programs, and recruiting teachers of color. I am growing on so many levels in this position, as a writer, an academic, a researcher, and a teacher.

Classroom DesksAs I reflect on the past, I know that my previous professional and life experiences have all brought me to where I am today. Currently, I work part-time as a Doctoral Fellow, and part-time as a middle school Spanish teacher in PPS, and take courses in the Ed.D. program. My “life” positions include spouse, mother of two, book club member, elementary school volunteer, and soccer and dance mom to name a few. These roles all make me who I am, but at times other people focus on my gender and ethnic background. Consequently, I see life through a multicultural and equity lens, focusing my energies both professionally and personally in service to students and people of color. This lens helps me bring the voices of the marginalized to the forefront. This lens focuses discussions in my courses, at my jobs, and even in social settings on issues of race and the moral imperative to close the achievement gap in this country, hopefully, “one day soon.”