Joanne Coakley

Faculty, Education Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT



EdD in Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments, Harvard University
EdM in Counseling Psychology, Boston University
BA in History, Anna Maria College
CAGS in Counseling Psychology, Boston University

Personal Statement

Gender, race and class differences are central to my educational practice. For the past thirty years, I’ve explored how different school settings can use educational research, policy and practice to redress these inequities.

As a counselor in a public high school, I helped students navigate the mainstream school culture as well as to change that culture by bringing their voices and visions  particularly of those on the margins  to teachers, administrators and parents. I found that often the school culture was irrelevant at best, and at worst, interfered with healthy adolescent development. By examining and challenging my own middle class white privilege, I was better able to analyze an educational culture that inherently privileged students who were white, verbally adept, middle and upper class, heterosexual, native born and fluent English speakers.

Some of my efforts were successful, while others were not. In doing this complex and rewarding work, I found sustenance and empowerment by engaging with others  in workshops, courses and institutes  who asked the difficult questions about the changing and complex relationship between race, gender and class in the United States. Combined with my experience in the school setting, these opportunities for reflection and support were critical to my personal growth as well as my development as a progressive practitioner. I want to continue creating ways to connect with others who are active participants in their own learning.

At Goddard, I enjoy exploring — with students and colleagues — varied strategies that can make schools safer and more effective for all students as learners and human beings. I am committed to bridging the gap between the academic theories that tell us what works best for young people and the reality of their schoolhouse lives. For example, how do we reconcile the new theories on multiple intelligences with the current emphasis on high stakes standardized testing? How do we let the latest research on racial and gender identity theory inform our understanding of the developmental needs of students? This juncture of theory and practice involves thinking outside the box and taking risks by challenging the status quo.

Over the years, I’ve complemented my educational practice with work as a consultant, designing workshops for professional development. These days, I divide my time between an active work life in the Boston area and wonderful time spent in Vermont Northeast Kingdom, where I mostly just hang out reading mysteries, kayaking rivers, discovering wildflowers and snowshoeing on deer paths.