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HGSE Welcomes New Faculty Members


The Harvard Graduate School of Education is welcoming five newly appointed members of its Faculty of the Whole this fall: Rhonda Bondie, Jennifer Cheatham, Carrie Conaway, Drew Echelson, and Christina Villarreal. With interests ranging from school leadership to education policy to race and equity in education, these new appointments bring diverse and unique perspectives to their work in the field. 

Rhonda Bondie has been appointed lecturer on education and director of professional learning, a newly created role in which she will focus on the residency components of HGSE’s teacher preparation programs and on strengthening partnerships with the field in order to best support student learning and their development as teachers. Throughout her career, Bondie has focused on ensuring that all learners are valued, engaged, and challenged in inclusive classrooms. She began teaching as an artist-in-residence and then spent more than 20 years in urban public schools as both a special and general educator. Bondie has taught at HGSE in several programs, including the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program and Professional Education’s Project Zero Classroom.

Jennifer CheathamJennifer Cheatham, Ed.M.’06, Ed.D.’10, will be joining the HGSE faculty as a senior lecturer on education and director of the Public Education Leadership Program (PELP). She was previously superintendent of the Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan School District, a post she had held since 2013. Prior to that role, she had worked in various capacities in public education, including as classroom teacher, instructional coach, and director of curriculum and instruction. She has a strong commitment to research-based practice and strategy across multiple domains, including data-driven instruction, creating strong school partnerships, serving high-risk populations, and policy implementation. She will begin at HGSE on October 1, 2019.

Carrie ConawayCarrie Conaway has joined the HGSE faculty as a senior lecturer on education. Previously, she served as the chief strategy and research officer at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a post she had held since 2016. She has written on such topics as how best to communicate research findings to policymakers, the promise and limitations of research based on state longitudinal data systems, the evidence-based policy provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and how to avoid common pitfalls in research-practice partnerships. She has also received grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research on topics including the teacher pipeline, expanded learning time, and measures of learning. 

Drew EchelsonDrew Echelson, Ed.M.’05, Ed.D.’13, director of the Doctor of Education Leadership Program at HGSE, has been named senior lecturer on education. A longtime educator and school leader, Echelson joined HGSE in May, following four years as the superintendent of Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Massachusetts. During his tenure there, Echelson led many improvements in the district, especially in academic outcomes, including doubling the number of students enrolled in advanced placement courses, increasing the percentage of Waltham High School graduates who attend college, and, in 2017, outperforming the Massachusetts average on five MCAS tests. Among other initiatives, Echelson focused on literacy instruction for all students and created the district’s first Spanish dual-language program. 


Christina VillarrealChristina “V” Villarreal, Ed.M.’05, has been appointed lecturer on education and faculty director of the Teacher Education Program. Prior to becoming lecturer and director of history/social studies in the education department of Brown University, Villarreal spent nearly a decade teaching middle school social studies in California. She has also served as adjunct lecturer on education at HGSE, teaching the popular course Ethnic Studies and Education. In addition to teacher education, her research focuses on exploring racial literacies and humanizing pedagogies in secondary social studies education, as well as other issues of race, ethnicity, and equity in education.





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Meet Ed.D. Marshal Jessica Fei, Ed.M.’15, Ed.D.’18


Jessica Fei came to HGSE eager to reflect and explore the challenges she often witnessed as in educator in New York City, both in schools and in out-of-school programs.

“I needed to better understand the roots of educational injustice and inequities, build knowledge about how to facilitate processes of healing, engage in resistance, and struggle towards liberation — and grapple with the complexity of this beautiful and necessary work,” Fei says.

That work took on an interesting turn, as Fei researched the idea of place and placemaking at the intersection of arts, community development, and education. She investigated community art programs as part of her dissertation, “Learning About Where We Are”: Pedagogies of Place and Placemaking in an Urban Community Art Studio.

How do you define placemaking? Place is a source of meaning-making that informs how we construct our identities and our life stories. We can see this in the way someone might talk about their block, their neighborhood, their city, or a broader region as a significant part of who they are in the world. Like other aspects of social identity, place can be personally meaningful even as it is connected to multiple systems of power and oppression. This is something that I learned first through my experiences as an educator, before I began reading theoretical and empirical research on place.

How so? When I asked my students about what the Bronx meant to them, I gained understandings of how they saw their present and future relationships to the place, and also acquired insight into how mainstream images and narratives of the Bronx were shaping their everyday lives and the opportunities available in their neighborhoods. Now that I have done research on the interplay of place, identity, and power, I believe that it is imperative for all educators to cultivate critical consciousness around place, and to develop a sense of themselves and their students as placemakers — people who can analyze the workings of power and oppression in their local context, and who will exercise their agency to create environments where individuals and communities can thrive.

Tell me more about community-based arts programs like Urbano — the one you studied —and its relationship to young people’s learning and development? My research on Urbano, a community art studio in Boston, revealed unique ways in which place-based arts programs can create opportunities for young people to develop their voice, cultivate their creative gifts, and collaborate with peers and adults. Many of the young people who participated in my research project described the learning and growth occurring in their art programs as radically different — and significantly more meaningful and impactful — than the education they were receiving in their schools. They valued the family-like relationships that they built with one another, the freedom they felt in voicing their cares and concerns through different modes of self-expression, the activities through which they were able to explore the city and encounter different forms of diversity, and the respect they were given as artists and as community leaders. Especially for the youth of color, the space to reflect and act upon issues of identity and belonging, race and racism, and neighborhood gentrification filled an important need.

At the same time, community-based art programs are not immune to dynamics of power and hierarchical relations in society at large. Their capacity to have transformational impact on individuals and communities depends on the extent to which they cultivate critical consciousness and struggle against the forces of adultism, racism, classism, sexism, and other oppressions shaping the processes and outcomes of their work. Through my partnership with Urbano, I learned that we must fuse our critical and creative powers in order to build the bridge between personal and social transformation. I believe this principle applies not only to how adults can support young people in community-based arts programs, but also to how educators can support learners in any setting.

What are your next steps? I’m heading back to my hometown of New York City. I can’t wait to bask in the company of my loved ones there, to be re-inspired by the energy and the people of the city, and to move toward a healthy work-life balance. In terms of my career, I plan to root myself in out-of-school-time settings where I can work from a grassroots level towards a more just world, with the wisdom and leadership of youth of color illuminating the way.





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