I want new teachers to have some key understandings of the way schools operate, and I want them to understand how to be ‘troublemaker’ teachers in that space.
Jesslyn Hollar quickly realized she didn’t have the knowledge for her new job. She transitioned from public school teacher to director of the Alternative Pathways to Teaching program at Central Washington University, but she lacked an understanding of the politicized history of schools of education.
So she commuted two hours over a mountain pass to attend the University of Washington College of Education’s doctorate program.
Her PhD (‘18) in educational policy and social/cultural foundations for teacher education (now part of the College’s educational foundations, leadership and policy study area) set her up to explore research interests in place-based and community-driven teacher education, democratic schooling and processes of knowledge mobilization in educational policymaking, her main area of research and the topic for which she received the Gordon C. Lee Dissertation Award from the College.
Hollar’s research with Ken Zeichner, Boeing professor emeritus of teacher education, grew her knowledge of teacher education programs. Another professor, Nancy Beadie, provided her with a historical lens for learning different stories, applying lessons of the past to educational policy in the present and future.
The lessons from Hollar’s doctoral studies influence the way she thinks about educating new teachers.
“I want new teachers to have some key understandings of the way schools operate, and I want them to understand how to be ‘troublemaker’ teachers in that space,” Hollar said. “If teachers experience a policy that isn’t resulting in equitable practice, they can speak up about that and work in solidarity with other teachers to dismantle harmful policies.”
Hollar compares her time as a public school teacher at James Madison Memorial High School in Wisconsin, prior to moving to Washington state, to her current work in higher education.
As a teacher, she had an impact on the students in her classroom. Now, she helps guide the teachers who will impact classrooms of their own.
“In my current role, there is the potential to have a broader impact than when I was teaching high school,” Hollar said.
Hollar’s current job is with Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin as a tenure-track assistant professor and the Accelerated Secondary Education Program (ASP) program director.
Hollar has many aspects of her job to navigate. She connects with students personally, teaches students to step outside their comfort zones, and teaches classes. In days packed with administrative duties, she still finds time to be a researcher and scholar.
In her scholarship, Hollar describes herself as operating at the intersection of the teacher education and policy formation spheres.
She can influence the teachers who then affect their students and fellow teachers, and she can impact the policies which affect school settings.
“I think the real challenge is staying true to the work of preparing teachers amidst our current climate of demoralization, de-professionalization and high-stakes accountability,” Hollar said. “I do think, however, we’re at a point where teachers, leaders and parents are saying ‘enough,’ which keeps me hopeful in the work to be done.”
Community partnerships are a valuable crossover of the two worlds. She appreciated the lab-like environment at UW where student teachers’ own learning was reflected back to value and elevate other local teachers and still makes it part of her work now, back in Wisconsin.
“I enjoy the supervision part of the job,” she said. “I get to go into classrooms, observe and support student teachers as they learn. It gives me a chance to get into schools and see a variety of teaching styles and environments. It keeps me grounded to that work.”
Story by Olivia Madewell, marketing and communications student aide.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications