Samara Francisco '10

It is great to see so many familiar names in the department! I am currently completing a one year Master's in Education program while serving as a Teacher Leadership resident with the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. The graduate school is embedded in the charter network High Tech High, which is best known as a pioneer in K-12 progressive education and project based learning. The school system which spans 13 elementary, middle, and high schools began as an equity project, for its fundamental belief is to give all students of the San Diego area access to deeper, richer, and more authentic learning experiences through projects.

After serving for five years as a high school English teacher in Arkansas and Memphis public schools, I am currently prioritizing earning my master's degree as I get hands on experience with implementing the philosophy of project based learning. As part of the residency program, I attend graduate courses at night and work with a full time High Tech High teacher, who teaches 12th grade English at High Tech High Media Arts. Together we collaborate to plan and design student learning experiences. Much of our English 12 curriculum that we compiled involves studying various sociological and anthropological topics such as social paradigms and constructs like gender and race, as well as how we construct our identity and sense of self. In fact, one of our students is doing her senior project on the difference between sacred and secular worship as symbolized by the Sagrada Familia. I have found my background in sociology and anthropology helpful for introducing relevant sources to my students. In my opinion, studying texts and current events through a sociological/anthropological lens helps students more critically analyze on a substantial level. We can more meaningfully engage in hot button issues without sounding like the rants that populate social media or dominate the talk show circuits.

Moreover, my experience of writing research papers for courses in the major provided me with a framework for how to teach research skills to my students. Hopefully, my students are prepared for not only the demands of universities but also prepared to engage in conversations about issues prevalent in the world around them.