Come, Walk With Us.
monét cooper, host
As a child in Georgia, my mom and dad taught me how to read and write at our family’s kitchen table, the same table where we exchanged ideas over meals, games, and guests. The experience of coming into my Black girl self through reading and writing has always been liberatory. This has been a space of community and freedom dreaming. And it is that love, that erotic space, that brings me to abolitionist work in education. Teaching and learning are sacred practices my ancestors spent time seeding into each other and my elders. This is my inheritance. But I have another one, too. Carcerality in our schools exists, in part, because we as educators deliver it via testing, surveillance, disciplinary measures, biases rooted in antiblackness, and curricula that constrict the horizon of possibility for us and our students. White supremacy within schools requires collusion from Black and Brown educators, too. How do I refuse this relationship with white supremacy? Even within liberation, what debt remains? After 11 years teaching ELA in DC-area middle and high schools, I’m now working on my PhD in Michigan and spending time twerking on desks with pre-service teachers, poeting, writing, and spending time with my love, Mara, and our dog, Moseley.
erin thesing, host
I come to this podcast as a white teacher who is forever striving to disrupt my relationship with whiteness, especially the ways in which white savior narratives were embedded in my path to becoming a Kindergarten and first grade teacher in a so-called turnaround school in Philadelphia. Experiences using a carceral curriculum--policing young children for uniform compliance and sitting up straight with folded hands--ignited a fire in me to find other ways of engaging in teaching and learning. I am grateful to the Black and Brown students, educators, elders, organizers, families, writers, theorists, researchers, and instructional coaches who’ve shown me liberatory ways of teaching, learning, and being throughout my 13 years of teaching in schools in Philadelphia and Washington, DC and who have walked with me in my journey to become an abolitionist teacher. I currently teach third grade in London, United Kingdom where I like to cook and feed my friends, plan elaborate hiking trips, and run with my husband, Elliott, and our dog, Hugo. In my classroom, you'll find me singing, painting, reading, writing, dreaming, and even dancing with children as we co-create a community of knowing and being known and of being in loving accountability to each other.
Our Hivemind are folks who we have worked and played with, and people who live in ways that are justice-full, liberatory, and abolitionist. In the work they do as educators and former educators, artists, organizers, creatives, parents, and humans, they are deeply reflective. They make mistakes, they reflect, and they learn. But more than anything, they're friends and confidants who hold us accountable in offering this podcast to you and celebrate every milestone, every learning moment. We love y'all and thank you.
Past Hivemind Members
JILL WEILER | she/her
As a child, I sensed that the compliance-centered schooling I experienced was wrong. Fortunately, my 9th grade English teacher cultivated critical consciousness in her students, and I immediately felt “at home” in her classroom. However, I did not have language for this type of teaching & learning until I read Freire in graduate school. As an educator for almost 35+ years, my aspiration has consistently been to create JOY in the classroom and to support students in recognizing their power to transform the world. Ultimately, I am a drop of water. On this earth, in this space and time, I cherish my roles as mother, daughter, life partner, sister, aunt, neighbor, and friend. I wake up grateful every day to also be a teacher and a learner in this world.
MICHELLE STAACK | she/her
Unpacking my own (and my family's experience) with the education system brought me to liberatory education. Additionally, my desire to continue on my own journey of exploring what justice-full teaching and learning looks, feels, and sounds like—and how to ensure it is the experience for young people—continues to fuel me. As a new-ish parent, this exploration continues to evolve and become more complex as I attempt to navigate the education space from a different perspective.
KELLY WHEELER, PH.D. | she/her
My mom was my first teacher and nurturer. As a nurse, she showed me what it was like to be a lifelong learner who honed her skills and techniques year after year when procedures changed and medicine became more advanced. She also showed me how important it was to care for others beyond family. Her example and my propensity for empathy led my mom to call me “tender heart,” and my tender heart was drawn to teaching: a profession that demands that I be a lifelong learner—if I am to be effective and affective—and that I serve others as a means to help them be better and more empathetic versions of themselves.
AMBER NELSON | she/her
PAMELA MCKINNEY | she/her
ELLEN CAPPARD | she/her
JAY GILLEN | he/him
We don't take young people seriously enough, and so we don't take older people seriously enough, either. The key to good teaching is not for the students to find out what is in the teacher's head, but for the teachers to find out what is in the students' heads. When we throw ourselves into that very serious and difficult work of listening, considering, responding, and listening again, we change the whole structure of how young people grow up because it won't look anything like "school." My role is to try to live this principle.
ANNA ALMORE | she/her
Liberatory education is my inheritance. I'm the great-great-granddaughter of a Black principal, educator and world-maker. She crafted classrooms where Black girls dreamed weightlessly about the brightness of their futures. One of those girls was my grandmother who retired as a Kindergarten teacher. My mother, from a tiny German village, now enters her 36th year of teaching where she's consistently prioritized play, wellness, relationships, and community. It's in my blood to nurture freedom dreams where we greet our best and worst selves other in deep relationship, responsibility, and restoration.
JENNIFER HUANG | they/them
Growing up, I did not feel liberated by my education—I mostly felt as if I was following a formula to success. I found the most joy in art classes, where there were no hard and fast rules. When I began to teach English Composition and Creative Writing, I knew I wanted to do my best to create a classroom that centered around community, liberation, and creativity. It's been about two years since I have been a teacher in a classroom. Currently, I work at a sustainable care farm, where I am enjoying the process of being a beginner again.
JOSE MIGUEL CUEVAS | he/him
I came to Liberatory Design as a response to my own educational upbringing, having grown up in Spain in a Catholic school during the last few years of the Franco dictatorship. My experiences of the transition to Democracy without a reconciliation process has conjured in my identity a deep crave for a more just and equitable system, where differences and new perspectives are not threats but assets. It is my passion not only to examine and reconsider how teaching and learning happens but also how to examine what knowledge is taught, who creates it and for what purpose.
DAVID JACOBSEN | he/him