What is your area of expertise? My area of expertise is program development and evaluation for minority communities, drowning prevention and aquatic safety among African American and Hispanic/Latino populations, youth development and culturally responsive teaching.
I currently serve as a member of the American Red Cross, Scientific Advisory Council, Aquatic Sub Council, and the director of education and research for Diversity in Aquatics, a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to save lives and reduce the incidence of drowning through global efforts.
Share an “aha!” moment you’ve had within your discipline that made you feel passionate about your field? When I came to realize that I could transform the perception of the field of health and physical education by showing how physical education can have a positive effect on public health. The perception of physical education and health education often times has been limited to stereotypical images of the “coach” with a whistle using their “outside voice” to encourage students to participate in physical education classes, hence physical activity. When I came to understand that I could become a “change agent” in my community, combining my love of family, culturally relevant pedagogy, social justice, to encourage youth through physical education/health and wellness, I strive to teach my students to view themselves as agents of change who will teach in classrooms with more than walls and balls.
Share with us one aspect of student engagement that you enjoy most, and why? The opportunity to empower communities and students to empower themselves with relevant and inspiring educational experiences that will enable them to take control of their lives, shape their career goals, imagine future endeavors and become active participants in their scholastic journey.
Describe an experience you’ve had with a student that made you feel excited about educating the next generation in your field? One of the most challenging aspects of academia is finding out how you will be able to add to the body of literature in one’s professional field in the areas of research, service and teaching. At times, I have struggled with finding my voice among the structured parameters of research which defines worth by one’s ability to “conduct a systematic investigation of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.” It is my belief that as an educator one must have or be willing to gain a true knowledge of the students and their world to present content that can evoke an intrinsic response.
From 2008 – 2013, I developed Project Guard: Make A Splash E.N.D.N.Y, an aquatic and water safety initiative developed for schools and community organizations to foster respect, responsibility and relevance. Project Guard: Make A Splash E.N.D.N.Y was a collaborative venture among the (ARC) American Red Cross of Long Island, USA Olympic Swimming: Make A Splash Initiative, Adelphi University, the Teaching for Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) Alliance and a neighboring local school district. It was this collaborative opportunity with students, at both the university and K-12 levels, that I believe that whether we are teaching in the local public schools or in an institution of higher education that we are supposed to provide students with relevant curriculum that will be meaningful and not dehumanizing to them. I believe we should design programs and opportunities because we believe that if we do not lead by example, we cannot expect our students to follow and model what they have learned and been taught.
I believe we teach because we believe that students are supposed to be researchers, problem solvers, critical thinkers, learners and much more. I believe we teach because we believe that students should be able to believe that goals in life are always achievable as long as they do not give in. I believe we teach because we believe that providing relevant physical education and physical activity may require collaborations beyond school. We do it because we know that students must be “global citizens” and culturally aware and be prepared to use strategies that will sustain them whether in the classroom and in life, for “a new world order is in the making, and it is up to us to prepare ourselves that we may take our rightful place in it” (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X, 1963).
What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline or your research focus? One of the things that I wish people knew about the field? It is more than a field of play. One purpose of health education physical education methods courses is to help preservice teachers develop an understanding of, and acquire, the pedagogical skills needed to facilitate learning through movement. As a professional, I strive to engage stakeholders in the K-12 experience. I believe that through the creation of innovative programs, embedded in the richness of the culture, curricula, and communities, that we are all a part of, we will begin to create the next generation of effective teachers who are truly reflective of the students and communities they serve.
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