How can schools move from being a source of inequity and harm to a source of community resurgence?
Intrigued by this question, Meixi (PhD ‘19) found that building relationships between communities and schools is the key to unlocking new ways of teaching, learning and knowing.
Originally from Singapore, Meixi spent childhood years at an indigenous hill tribe school in northern Thailand, which is where she saw the deep need to explore diverse methods of teaching and learning.
In 2011, Meixi took a position with Mexico’s Ministry of Education in innovation and policy. While there, she was part of the national team that created “redes de tutoría” or “tutoring networks” throughout the country. The goal of this innovative program was to build networks of teaching and learning involving students, academic authorities and community members through dialogue and reflection.
Having been personally transformed by this work, Meixi led a research project and moved to a small rural community in Zacatecas. She conducted interviews to gather data on how tutoría was healing communities while transforming educational policies and structures.
“Our work was about bringing ground up movement and change through students and teachers at the schools,” Meixi said. “I was part of the policy team and on the ground, getting really rooted in that rural community. Our work was extended to about 9,000 schools and continued to change the community in that village and across the country.”
The goal of Meixi’s work in Mexico was to stretch both teachers and students beyond their traditional classroom roles. She discovered that highly effective educators model learning in their interactions with students, parents and schools. For this work, Meixi received the the 2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Research award from the American Educational Research Association’s Educational Change Special Interest Group.
Following her time in Mexico, Meixi returned to Southeast Asia to teach math in Singapore and Thailand. She soon found herself seeking a graduate degree in education, which led her to the University of Washington College of Education and its doctoral program in learning sciences and human development.
“We have amazing faculty who are at the cutting edge of learning sciences,” Meixi said. “They are pushing the edges of the field in deep ways by centering equity and community justice.”
For her, it was also important that faculty such as Megan Bang and Filiberto Barajas-López center “indigenous ways of knowing, being, feeling and dreaming to understand how those factors intersect with communities and schools.”
Exploring new ways of teaching, learning and knowing informs Meixi’s work both inside and outside of the College of Education. She develops relationships between schools and communities by volunteering at a credit recovery high school in West Seattle. By supporting students and teachers in various capacities, Meixi applies the lessons she is learning at the College in a real-world setting.
“My experiences at the College of Education are preparing me to do deep work in the community and be critical, not just of research, but also critical of myself as a researcher. I really hope that I can bring that to the other spaces that I go back home to in Thailand, Singapore or Mexico.”
In the future, Meixi is considering pursuing a tenure track position at a research university to work toward decolonizing predominantly white institutions. She hopes that her work remains rooted in the community by building relationships through education.
“How do we become and build that bridge between the university and the community? What does it feel like when we come together in strength and deep relationality? I believe these connections will cause our work towards educational liberation to become much more fruitful and sacred.”
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications