Photo: Jill Anderson
The Morningstar Family Teaching Award, the top teaching honor bestowed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was presented to Lecturer Aaliyah El-Amin, Ed.M.’13, Ed.D.’15, at HGSE’s Convocation exercises on May 25. The annual award recognizes a member of the HGSE faculty for excellence in teaching and advising throughout the year. The recipient is chosen based on nominations by HGSE students and a review process by a student advisory committee and the HGSE dean.
El-Amin teaches courses on critical pedagogy, disrupting racism, the black radical education tradition, and critical qualitative methods. When introducing the award at Convocation, Dean Bridget Long shared that, in the nominations, El-Amin was recognized by students for being a caring and dedicated instructor who encourages personal reflection in classroom discussions and gives high-quality feedback.
“Dr. El-Amin is the most caring, kind, compassionate, and dedicated professor I have had," read one nomination. “She goes the extra mile and genuinely cares about us as humans. Her teaching is cutting edge, real, and sticks with you.”
"I truly appreciated the care she took in planning and crafting her course each week," read another. "She offered multiple ways to engage students in the class and encouraged us to apply our reflections to classroom discussions and practices. During class discussions, she used questions to encourage us to apply the theoretical to our statements, therefore, allowing us to engage in the practice of theory to action."
Established in 2000 with a gift from Faith Morningstar, Ed.M.’87, Ed.D.’96, and her husband, the Honorable Richard Morningstar, an alumnus of Harvard College, the Morningstar Family Teaching Award is intended to recognize those faculty members that helped create supportive environments for their students. El-Amin was nominated along with 51 other faculty members, with 147 students making nominations.
“Teaching has been a central part of my identity for over 20 years,” says El-Amin. “I love creating powerful (and joyful) learning experiences that allow students to learn from each other and allow me to learn from students. Everything I teach at HGSE is focused on how we break out of boxes in our society and explore more radical and liberated possibilities for ourselves, our communities and education. Being nominated for this award this year is not only humbling and a true honor, but it is also inspiring! It solidifies that my students are excited about the challenge of building a more just future. I am truly grateful to all my students, and I can’t wait to see how they push back and re-imagine in their future work.”
El-Amin began her career in education as an elementary school teacher and then moved on to roles in education administration and nonprofit leadership. El-Amin received her Ed.D. from HGSE in 2015 and was the recipient of the 2015 Dissertation Fellowship Award. Her research interests focus on outlining the knowledge, mindsets and tools educators and students need to disrupt systems of oppression. In her past research studies, she has investigated critical consciousness development in 9–12 graders across New England and documented the innovative and unique practices of schools in California that are explicitly committed to social justice.
Current faculty members who have received the Morningstar Award include Professors Andrew Ho, Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Jal Mehta, Catherine Snow, Paul Harris, and Monica Higgins; Associate Professor Karen Brennan; Lecturers Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Joe McIntyre; Senior Lecturers Joe Blatt and Elizabeth City; Principal Research Scientist Tina Grotzer; and Dean Bridget Terry Long.
El-Amin would like to thank all of her past and present teaching teams: Whitney Polk, Aysha Upchurch, Pooja Bakhai, Julia Jeffries, Estefania Rodriguez, Amanda Torres, Abena McKall, Daphne Penn, Tatiana Geron, Chris Buttimer, Hania Mariëen, Megan Satterwhite-Freeman, Gary Mitchell, Parastoo Massoumi, Michael Ángel Vázquez, Ela Sikorska, and Ashley Ison.