Education professor: to teach is to serve
By: Frenche Brewer, email@example.com, 803-777-3691
Gloria Boutte follows the teaching of a famous Brazilian educator, allowing his philosophy about helping the oppressed to be a guiding principle for her life and giving purpose to her career as an educator.
“I also have a deep love for humanity, so I see my work as having a divine purpose, and my goal is to see what I can do on behalf of humanity,” Boutte says.
Part of this purpose is rooted in Boutte’s childhood, growing up during the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement in the South.
“I remember early on not liking to see people treated unfairly and when I read the works of Paulo Freire a Brazilian educator, or W.E. Dubois, or Mahatma Ghandi---all of them talk about how even as children, things bothered them. So some of it might be a disposition that certain people are born with,” Boutte says.
Boutte has devoted her career to fighting oppression in the classroom, and not just talking about it, but working to achieve real results.
As a professor in early childhood education, Boutte strives to help future teachers understand that the demographics in classrooms are changing. In response to these changes, Boutte, and early childhood faculty have transformed the largest pre-service teacher program in the state in order to better prepare future teachers on issues of equity.
“We tell them, ‘you’re going to spend time in communities learning about different people, talk about issues of poverty, issues of different languages—all of that is going to be a part of every course you take,’” Boutte says.
In her work as a “freedom scholar,” Boutte aims to teach educators how to fight against oppression in schools. She says this is beneficial not only for kids of color, but for white kids too.
Boutte sees her role as educator provocateur to help people effectively teach all students and really get beyond the rhetoric. Her mission is to train educators how to recognize and interrupt oppression, which she says may be veiled in school practices, policies, instruction, curriculum and assessment.
Boutte says the work is difficult because many educators believe that discrimination no longer exists. She says despite the best intentions, but without the knowledge of how oppression works, many educators inadvertently contribute to it. In her quest to help them understand how to be better teachers, Boutte views her job as important and exciting work.
When her students graduate into their teaching professions, Boutte wants them to think about teaching students of color, students of poverty, and students who speak another language, as something that’s exhilarating, not something to be dreaded, but to be excited about it.
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