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Teaching Toward Change

Clari Heredia and Bryant Odega will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for the Teaching and Teacher Leadership Program 
Clari Heredia and Bryant Odega
Clari Heredia (left) and Bryant Odega

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes graduating Ed.M. students (one from each master’s degree program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. All recipients were nominated by their classmates based on who inspired them, helped them gain a different perspective on education's challenges, and contributed to shared learning and intellectual growth, both inside and outside of the classroom. Each program's faculty directors, in consultation with other faculty and staff, selected the final honorees for their program based on the nominations and on demonstrated academic success.  

Clari Heredia and Bryant Odega will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for the Teaching and Teacher Leadership (TTL) Program during HGSE Convocation exercises on May 22. Below, our faculty members comment on the selections, and we asked the winners about their time at HGSE, their future goals, and their approach to impacting the field of education.

Clari Heredia, Ed.M.'24

"Clari’s open, nonjudgmental stance welcomes classmates into conversation, and her genuine curiosity encourages peers to try on new perspectives. Threaded through it all, Clari’s gentle smile and humble approach causes us all to lean in and listen. That’s a vital intellectual contribution." — Lecturer Sarah Fiarman

Clari with Lecturer Linda Nathan and other TTL students in a classroom
Clari Heredia (center) with Lecturer Linda Nathan (second from right) and other TTL students in a classroom

What brought you to HGSE and what was your goal in coming here? After a decade as an elementary school teacher engaged with Visible Thinking framework, Project Zero brought me to HGSE. I was eager to deepen and broaden my teaching techniques toolbox with evidence-based practices to become a better teacher myself and support other educators by leading change. I was also looking forward to being part of a community of mission-driven educators and to learn from different perspectives.

How did your HGSE experience shape your work or your goals? My experience at HGSE has inspired me to share my learnings with other educators, working toward leading change. We often listen to people complaining about the educational system, sometimes talking about what should be done, and almost never succeeding in bringing change. I will work collaboratively towards being an agent of change.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience? I had many classes and professors that significantly shaped my experience. I would like to highlight Lecturer Tina Blythe’s courses that were truly transformative for me. Her way of modeling effective teaching encouraged me to delve deeper into my teaching toolbox and future plans. Lecturer Sarah Fiarman showed me the importance of building authentic relationships with students and how that enhances learning. Lecturer Daniel Wilson’s Group Learning course significantly influenced my understanding of collective learning processes and outcomes. His role as a facilitator prompted me to reflect on my practices within my classroom. Building a Democratic School with Lecturer Linda Nathan encouraged me to design a project with all these ideas in mind.

What are your post-HGSE plans? Where are you hoping to make the most impact? After HGSE, I will do educational research to learn more about evidence-based practices. I will then go back to Argentina and continue working so that every child can access a good quality education that will cultivate their curiosity, reflection, and critical thinking. I am committed to creating challenging and rigorous learning experiences within a safe learning environment, fostering a growth mindset.

Bryant Odega, Ed.M.'24

"The immense depth of Bryant’s intellect is matched by his commitment to fighting for a more just and equitable world. I remember when I first met him during office hours, he had a bag full of books on critical pedagogy. These weren't for any class assignment, but simply because he was genuinely interested in the topic. At HGSE, Bryant has dedicated his time to learning how to translate principles of justice, liberation, and joy into educational experiences that can truly transform the lives of young people. His approach to education and community work more broadly, is holistic, leading not just with his mind, but also with his heart and his actions. Bryant's warmth is immediately noticeable, but don't let that fool you. He is a fierce advocate for young people and underserved communities, always ready to stand up for what he believes in. His commitment to creating a more just and equitable world is truly inspiring." — Lecturer Eric Soto-Shed

Bryant Odega in a classroom
Bryant Odega in a classroom

What brought you to HGSE and what was your goal in coming here? What brought me to HGSE was the knowledge, lessons, and skills passed down to me by my mother — my first and greatest teacher who raised my younger sister and I to be the first in our family to be able to go to college. It was the aspirations and dreams of my father, who was separated from my family by ICE when I was a child, but never gave up on my ability to pursue a higher education. It was also the experiential knowledge and wisdom of the young people and community residents that I had the honor to be in community with as a long-term substitute teacher in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles, but also as a community organizer and activist in the people-centered movement throughout Los Angeles. At HGSE, my goal was to learn how to pair the experiential knowledge of my community with the technical so that I can engage in what ancestor bell hooks describes as “education as the practice of freedom” in a way that honors the communities I intend to serve as well as the labor and legacy of those who’ve struggled for our collective liberation.

What is something that you learned this year that you will take with you throughout your career in education? Something that I was reminded of this year that I will take with me throughout my education career is being mindful of the difference between “education” and “schooling.” The status quo of the school system is deeply rooted in various forms of oppression. Not only does the school system directly contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, but it also utilizes carceral logics, policies, and punitive measures that ultimately dehumanize youth who come from backgrounds that are immigrant, working class, disabled, queer, indigenous, and/or communities of color. Throughout my career as an abolitionist educator, I intend to work in solidarity with youth, fellow educators, and the communities we serve to eliminate oppression within the school system and advance an education that heals, re-humanizes, and raises the critical consciousness of young people to recognize the resources that they already possess within themselves and each other so that they can create the change they want to seek in their own lives, communities, and society.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience? A class that significantly shaped my experience at HGSE is the T004 Ethnic Studies and Education course taught by Christina “V” Villarreal and teaching fellows Ph.D. student Melina Melgoza and Ed.L.D. student Justis “DJ Faro” Lopez. In this course, I’ve learned from Dr. V key concepts, frameworks, curriculums, and epistemologies within the field of Ethnic Studies discipline that, as an Ethnic Studies Teacher Intern at New Mission, provided a unique opportunity for me to learn and practice in real-time. From Melina and Justis, I learned about the critical media literacy framework and hip hop education (among many other lessons), respectively. All of the invaluable lessons learned from them along with the people I had the joy of taking the course with have helped me stay grounded in pursuit of humanizing pedagogies as well as the ancestors who’ve made it possible for me to be where I am today.  

What are your post-HGSE plans? Where are you hoping to make the most impact? After I graduate from my program at HGSE, I plan to teach secondary social studies, particularly in Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, or both back home in Los Angeles. Within the classroom, I aim to co-create education spaces with my future students that abolish carceral practices and model the type of humanizing society that we all want to live in. Outside the classroom, I intend to continue my involvement in the labor movement especially within the teacher’s union which play an essential role in democratizing the workplace, transforming our education system for the better, fighting for the needs of our students and communities, and also serve as the last line of defense when it comes to protecting public education. I want to make sure I am involved in the movements to advance a healing and transformative education both inside and outside the classroom. 


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