Advisory Board

Jessica Shiller

Jessica T. Shiller is an associate professor of education in the Department of Instructional Leadership and Professional Development at Towson University in Maryland. Her teaching and research interests include urban education, school reform policy and practice, culturally relevant school practices, critical race theory and methods, and civic education. She is a critic of neoliberal school reform and focuses on community responses to improving schools that serve Black and Brown youth and communities. She works in an advisory capacity for many local organizations including the Teachers Democracy Project, the Baltimore Algebra Project, the Center for Innovation in Urban Education at Loyola Maryland, and the Baltimore Educational Research Consortium. She is a recent recipient of the Alan G. Penczek award for her work as a faculty member in the area of community partnership and service learning. Her most recent scholarship focuses on urban school reform including school closings and community school initiatives in Baltimore and is most recently the author of “The Disposability of Baltimore’s Black Communities: A Participatory Action Research Project on the Impact of School Closings” which appeared in the March 2017 issue of The Urban Review. Prior to coming to Towson, she worked in New York City as a high school teacher in city schools, a coach to new teachers in Bronx high schools, and a teacher educator at the City University of New York.

M. Francyne Huckaby

M. Francyne Huckaby is Associate Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at and Professor of Curriculum Studies in the College of Education at Texas Christian University. She servers as core faculty of Women and Gender Studies, Africana and African American Studies, and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, and was formerly the Director of the Center for Public Education. She works (as pedagogue, curricularist, and scholar) to create openings and spaces for antioppressive discourses and practices, and is most interested in spaces where divergent worldviews coexist. These, she argues, are sites of power relations that are educational and political. Her scholarship on community organizing and resistance to neoliberal education reform puts filmmaking to work as a form of inquiry and making public—publicaré—research and sites of resistance and struggle.
Her books include Researching Resistance: Public Education after Neoliberalism (2019) with its companion website and Making Research Public in Troubled Times: Pedagogy, Activism, and Critical Obligations (2018). Her work appears in International Review of Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Educational Philosophy and Theory, and Journal of Curriculum Theorizing.


Varja Watson

Dr. Vajra M. Watson is the UC Davis Director of Research and Policy for Equity and Founder of SAYS. In this capacity, she seeks innovative ways to align people and systems that advance social justice. As an educational sociologist, she examines the culture of schools, the broad ecology of education, and the relationship between human development and social change. Watson is originally from Berkeley, California and was deeply impacted by the courses she took in the Black and Xicanx Studies Departments at Berkeley High School in the mid-1990s. In 10th grade her final exam question was: “What are you doing to stop and/or curtail the spread of white supremacy in yourself, community, and this world?” This question still shapes her path and purpose. In 2008, she founded Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS), a social justice movement that breaks the barriers of underachievement by elevating the voices of students as the authors of their own lives and agents of change. In this capacity, she designed an award-winning training program that pairs community-based poet-mentor educators and teachers together to develop grassroots pedagogies that reclaim and reimagine schooling: As a scholar-activist, Dr. Watson examines both the perils and promises of education and the potential of innovative community-university-school partnerships. She is the author of two books, Learning to Liberate: Community-Based Solutions to the Crisis in Urban Education (Routledge, 2012) and Transformative Schooling: Towards Racial Equity in Education (Routledge, 2018), and has published dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is the recipient of the UC Davis Early Career Award, Sacramento’s 40 Under 40 Leadership Award, the Chancellor’s Soaring to New Heights Individual Achievement Award for Diversity, and the American Educational Research Association’s Social Impact Award as well as AERA’s Social Justice Leadership Award.

Jackson Potter

Jackson Potter is a Chicago Public Schools graduate. He was a high school activist who led a walk-out at Whitney Young in 1995 to push for equitable funding for schools in Illinois. He became a teacher at Englewood High School and was the union delegate there when former CEO Arne Duncan called the school a “culture of failure” and started a phase-out in 2005. Jackson and Al Ramirez formed the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) in May of 2008 and the Grassroots Education Movement, with community organizations, shortly thereafter. In June of 2010, CORE won the general election for the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, the third largest teachers local in the country. Jackson served as the CTU staff coordinator from 2010 to 2018 and currently works as a high school history teacher at Back of The Yards College Prep.


Arlene Inouye

Arlene Inouye was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles Unified Schools. Her grandparents emigrated from Japan to Boyle Heights, and her family was incarcerated during World War II. Three generations of her family have attended LAUSD schools. She has a BA and MA in communicative disorders from Long Beach State University. She has been a Spanish bilingual speech and language specialist for over 18 years. Arlene has been a UTLA Officer for the past seven years. As Treasurer, Arlene led UTLA through the “Build the Future Fund the Fight” that addressed UTLA’s structural deficit to provide greater support for members and organizational sustainability. And as UTLA Secretary she has led the UTLA Bargaining Team through a historic strike and contract fight. Through the years she has also been a community organizer, human rights activist, parent educator, multicultural and human relations specialist, and leader in progressive educational reform.


Tom Pedroni

Tom Pedroni is an associate professor of curriculum studies at Wayne State University, and works closely with a number of community and teacher groups across Michigan to defend against the further destabilization of predominately Black districts and neighborhoods. His current research examines the educational dispossession and displacement of majority Black communities, utilizing Benton Harbor and Detroit as case studies. Participating with teachers, youth, and community advocates, his research seeks to stake out an educational agenda that exposes and overturns policies that grind down predominately Black districts, asserting instead a community-derived curriculum vision that centers schools as sites of neighborhood and cultural regeneration.


Keith Benson

Keith Benson is an educator, president of Camden Education Association in Camden, New Jersey. His research background focuses on urban education, urban school choice, and charter schools development coinciding with urban redevelopment. He’s the author of ‘Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ,’ available at Peter Lang Publishing.



Leah Owens

Leah Owens serves as the Coordinator of Candidate Assessment, Clinical Partnerships, and In-service Teacher Education at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Her research interests include critical democratic education, culturally relevant field experiences for pre-service teachers, cultivating social justice dispositions in teacher leaders, and qualitative inquiry. She has both served as a member of the Newark Board of Education and taught high school English in the district. She is a founding member of the Newark Education Workers Caucus, the social justice caucus within the Newark Teachers Union. She continues to be an active citizen in the city as we struggle for culturally relevant curriculum and clean water.

Sally Lee

Sally Lee is the Founder and Executive Director of Teachers Unite, an independent member-led organization of NYC public school educators collaborating with families and students to transform schools. Sally is a Black, multiracial native New Yorker and graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Wesleyan University, and Bank Street College of Education. She has worked in educational settings and nonprofits for nearly thirty years. Sally taught fifth and sixth grade in a Lower East Side public school before working at the Union Square Awards where she learned about the inspiring landscape of grassroots social justice organizations working across the city. As one of New York Collective of Radical Educators earliest members, she envisioned an organization that would sustain and grow the leadership of teachers who believed both in social justice and that schools could play a critical role in reshaping society. Sally founded Teachers Unite in 2006 as a strategic center for a new generation of education justice activists to reclaim their union alongside veteran teachers, and low-income communities of color. In the decade since, Teachers Unite has built a membership of hundreds, represented educators in the local and national Dignity in Schools Campaigns, and released a documentary, Growing Fairness, seen by thousands, that helped explode the conversation about Restorative Justice in schools across the country.

Rhiannon Maton

Rhiannon Maton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Foundations and Social Advocacy Department at State University of New York College at Cortland. She is a former Toronto public high school teacher and school-level union representative in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. Her research and teaching focus on teacher activism and union organizing, teacher learning about systemic social marginalization, alternative school structures, and the political context of public education in the U.S. and Canada. Much of her current research focuses on how teachers might mobilize political education to enhance their grassroots organizing and work with students. Previously, she ran participatory research on structural racism with members of the Caucus of Working Educators in Philadelphia. Her research has been published in several journals and edited volumes, and she is currently the Secretary/Treasurer for the Teacher’s Work/Teachers Unions Special Interest Group for the American Educational Research Association.

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