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Social Justice in STEM: Melissa Mooradian, TEP'18

By Marin Jorgensen on May 4, 2018 3:30 PM
The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for the Teacher Education Program, reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Melissa MooradianIt may not be the most obvious fit, but there is plenty of room for teaching social justice in STEM, says Melissa Mooradian. In fact, she spent her year in the Teacher Education Program (TEP) exploring ways to incorporate these lessons into her own classroom.

“My professors, classmates, and mentors at HGSE have supported me knowing that this work is possible, and I hope that future science educators can see these connections as well,” says Mooradian. “I hope to show future teachers that social justice education and STEM are not separate. So often we view science classrooms as removed from conversations about identity, humanity, and equity but all of those things influence who we are as scientists.”

Mooradian was attracted to TEP because of its focus on intensive classroom experience and support for new teachers. She now feels prepared to enter the classroom and is currently seeking a teaching position in the Boston area where she will be able to incorporate lessons of social justice into the science curriculum and work with students in developing skills to advocate for positive change in their communities.

“Through her example and collaborative leadership, Melissa has demonstrated how to center social justice at the heart of learning and teaching. With keen insight, a skilled ear, sensitivity, and compassion, she has engaged her TEP colleagues in thinking about how their purposes for teaching and learning and the beliefs and assumptions that frame those purposes influence their efforts to support all students’ learning,” says Lecturer Vicki Jacobs, faculty director of TEP. “As she has striven to become the best possible teacher for her own students, she has modeled for others how deep, honest, yet hard inquiry is at the foundation of professional growth. Her passion and dedication to serving the education of all students have inspired others in her cohort to do the same.”

Mooradian will receive the Intellectual Contribution Award for TEP at Convocation on May 23. Here, she reflects on her year at HGSE and looks at her future in education.

What was your greatest fear before attending HGSE?
That a year would be too short to learn everything I needed to learn before entering the classroom. TEP is a 12-month program and I didn’t think there was any way I would feel as confident and comfortable about entering the classroom next year as I do now. I think that is testament to the intensive field work component of TEP, as well as the incredible support I’ve received from mentors and advisers.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
Two professors stand out to me as having had the most impact on my year here, [Lecturers] Victor Pereira and Christina Villarreal. Victor Pereira instructed me in a three-semester sequence of Science Methods and so much of what I know about curriculum design and inquiry-based instruction comes from him. He has supported me in taking risks in the classroom and is always there to encourage and push my reflection of my own practice. In the fall, I took Ethnic Studies in Education with Christina “V” Villarreal, and I think this class has had the biggest impact on my philosophy and pedagogy as a teacher. V showed me the strength of bringing vulnerability and love into the classroom and pushed me to see the ways I can make my science curriculum based in social justice and radical healing. I am so grateful to both of them for the ways in which they’ve helped me grow as an educator and strongly recommend that everyone at HGSE take a class with both of them!

How did you stay inspired throughout the year?  
Without a doubt my cohort. I definitely would not have made it through this year without their constant support and advice. Especially in a program that includes an intensive fieldwork component, I think being surrounded by like-minded people who can share in your experiences and struggles is so important. I feel so lucky to have shared this experience with 17 other educators who are constantly striving to do their very best for the students they work with and they inspire me to be a better teacher every day.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
The importance of reflection, both for students in the classroom and for me as an educator. Because of my time at HGSE, I feel confident in my ability to use reflection as a tool to continually push myself to improve my craft and strive to be a life-long learner.

A professor this summer shared a quote with us that reads, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” I bring this quote into the classroom with me to remind myself that my work in becoming an effective educator is never done, and that I always need to push myself to grow in order to do the best for my students.

Learn more about the Intellectual Contribution Award and read about all of this year's recipients.