The daughter of educators, Teddi Beam-Conroy brings more than 20 years of experience as a K-12 educator in Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota and Texas to her new role as director of the University of Washington’s Elementary Teacher Education Program.
Beam-Conroy has provided instruction to students in English, Spanish and French in all content areas and worked directly with teachers in their professional development. In addition, she has developed and taught graduate courses in bilingual and ESL teacher preparation and consulted with schools in the areas of culturally and linguistically relevant practice. Beam-Conroy earned master’s and doctoral degrees in bicultural-bilingual education from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s in bilingual education from the University of Wisconsin.
Beam-Conroy recently answered questions about what drew her to education, her commitment to social justice in teacher preparation, and more.
What drew you to education?
It would be easy to say that I was drawn to education because my parents were educators—but that's not true! I think that despite the fact that my parents were educators, I ended up in this field. Maybe because of my family I had a predisposition toward teaching. But my motivations were somewhat different.
My parents came to education at a time when there were few professional opportunities for African Americans and even fewer for African American women. My father began his career in schools that were legally segregated by race; my mother's college, Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C., was all Black until her junior year. She wanted to be a doctor—but scraped to pay her undergrad tuition. So she encouraged my sister and I to do anything but teach! But I had a political spirit, one that focused on education as a civil right. I saw being an educator as a way to promote equity. And by the way—my sister is a teacher, too!
What makes this work meaningful to you?
The responsibility we have as educators takes my breath away. It humbles me. Teachers touch everyone—for better or for worse. We must make certain that we give all children the very best teachers we can. They deserve no less.
What attracted you to UW's College of Education?
I was drawn to UW's focus on field-based learning for prospective teachers. Too many teacher education programs talk "at" students about being in schools and postpone that moment of contact until very late in the process. I believe the co-teaching model of UW's teacher education programs is the most meaningful way for new educators to learn both the art and craft of teaching—with real students in real classrooms in real time, side-by-side with an experienced, master teacher.
And, of course, I find UW TEP's social justice orientation consonant with my own beliefs about education.
In assuming your new role, what are your 1 or 2 top priorities in your first year?
My No. 1 priority—and this will remain my No. 1 priority as long as I am here—is to be mindful that ELTEP's social justice orientation must be at the center of all we do. Are you noticing a theme here...?
What education-related books or movies have influenced you the most?
I remember my dad reading 36 Children by Herb Kohl when I was a child. I picked it up and was interested. I think that started me on reading about schools.
bell hooks's teaching trilogy: Teaching to Transgress, Teaching Community, and Teaching Critical Thinking, was very influential. I consider them must-reads. But as for the most influential, I would have to say it was Tara Yosso's 2005 article "Whose culture has capital?" in the journal Race, Ethnicity, and Education. That article was my introduction to Critical Race Theory, which has served as my theoretical lens since. Never before had a piece resonated so profoundly with me—and work by CRT scholars in education continues to inform all that I do.
What's something that students and colleagues should know about you?
Washington is the sixth place I've lived. I was raised in D.C., then lived in Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota and Texas before moving here two years ago. With the exception of D.C., I've taught in all those places, too.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
Music. I love to sing and I'm likely to burst out in song at any moment. Consider yourselves warned.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications