Jess Cleeves holds a BS in Ecology (San Francisco State University), MAT in Secondary Science Education (Stanford University), and an MSW (University of Utah). She began her career in conservation biology, then transitioned to secondary science education. As a teacher in Title 1 secondary science classrooms in California, Colorado, and Utah, Jess earned a National Board Certification and supported struggling schools as an instructional coach.
The University of Utah's Learning Assistant pedagogy course connects evidence-based best practice for small group facilitation and the individual, institutional, and cultural barriers which motivate the opportunity gap. Through this approach, students engage in self-reflection around race, class, gender, ableism, heteronormativity, similar to traditional 'diversity' classes. Doing so from their Learning Assistant mentorship role, while learning actionable pedagogical strategies, however, seems to move students from backgrounds of privilege through feelings of anger, guilt, and shame differently than courses whose sole goal is to explore inequity without offering actionable next steps. Students who identify with marginalized positionalities are relieved from tokenization and into advocacy for their students, with whom their identities may/not align. Situating conversations about access and power within a context of enacting inclusive pedagogical practices allows Learning
Assistants to co-create solutions concurrent with understand the historical depth, cultural complexity, and structural resistance to making education equitable and inclusive.