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Collaborative Ethnography Practitioner Cohort

Our practioner cohort is working together as an educators' collective, providing mutual support for our Collaborative Ethnography focused teaching projects. We also work for the advancement of our shared desire to help other educators connect their students to their local communities. Our members are K-16 and community educators who come from a wide variety of contexts, across the U.S. and internationally.

We have in common being alumni of CWI's Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning. Each educator brings a diverse set of skills, background, skills, teaching contexts, and situational geography. Our educators also come from a wide spectrum of grade levels, public and independent schools, higher education, and community based settings. Our shared passion is for advancing the work of connecting students to the people and multiple layers of life in their communities. learn more l email us l call: 909.480.3966 (PST)

service learning

4th Grade Teacher, MacArthur Park, LAUSD—Los Angeles
paul lowePaul is a teacher in the MacArthur Park/Westlake district of Los Angeles considered by some to be a rough neighborhood. (Westlake is the most densely populated neighborhood in the U.S., west of Manhattan.) Paul and his students, with parent and volunteer support, have been exploring MacArthur Park, interviewing business owners and neighbors trying to get a sense of what matters to people there. Paul and his students are also planning a community garden at his school that services local families and beautifies the park with native, drought tolerant plants. Paul's students are also learning about seeds and how to take of plants by adopting existing plants at school. He says, "Education is not filling the pail, but lighting the fire."read more about Paul's work

Founder, Community Works Institute (CWI)
Joe is our principal training and outreach supporting educator. Joe is a veteran educator channeling his personal passion and extensive experience with Place Based Service-Learning. He sees this work as part of an effort to create compelling opportunities for students to bring their communities together, through purposeful, local, people-oriented projects. Joe travels widely supporting schools and teachers through a process that includes the use of Collaborative Ethnography as a teaching tool to develop understanding, empathy, and compassion. He is also the Founder and Director of Community Works Institute (CWI) which sponsors CommonLore. For the past three decades Joe has served as an international advocate, speaker, and workshop leader for embedding place based service-learning and sustainability in K-16 education. As a public school teacher in Vermont, he established a nationally recognized K-12 service-learning program that included a unique student run community newspaper that thrived for more than twenty years. Joe is also the publisher of Community Works Journal, a digital magazine for educators. more about Joe's work l email Joe l call us: 909.480.3966

Teacher, LAUSD—CWI Faculty Member—Los Angeles
paula cohenPaula is a veteran teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, mostly at the middle school level, and currently in an elementary school setting. She uses a strong projects based approach that allows for student voice, academic choice and active engagement in learning. Breaking down the four walls of the classroom, thinking about how to use educational spaces more creatively, connecting students to their community and greater world in authentic learning experiences, are what drives her practice. Paula believes in networking to connect schools to local organizations and communities. At Orville Wright Middle School where she previously taught, she organized to build a student and community garden on a derelict acre of land on the school’s property that still thrives to this day. She continues her work of building a school garden program on her new campus. Paula is an alumna and current faculty member of Community Works Institute’s Summer WEST Institute.

Principal/STEM Teacher —Los Angeles Diocese—Long Beach, CA
alex gonzalesAlex feels called to serve as an educator in communities with high needs. As a middle school Math and Science teacher, Alex envisions a school community with a common, shared vision that values a culture of collaboration, social justice, service and sustainability. She is the principal of an urban Catholic elementary K-8 school in a high needs area of Long Beach, California. The school has a reputation for supporting underserved students, including children of low wage workers and undocumented immigrants. Alex is an alumna of CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, and is inspired by Freire’s theory of Critical Consciousness and John Dewey’s ideas of connection between democracy and education. She shares that her experience at CWI’s Institute gave her the “opportunity to bridge theory into practice through the use of Service-Learning and Collaborative Ethnography—as a way to have school and community stakeholders engaged in understanding their own local communities, by beginning the dialogue and becoming aware of the needs of their own communities in order to become more action-oriented.” Alex also has international experience teaching English as a Second Language for the Faculty of International Studies at the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand. read Alex's full bio

History Dept. Chair, AP U.S. History—Emma Willard School—Troy, NY
alex gonzalesBob is the History and Social Sciences Department Chair at Emma Willard School, a girls boarding school in Troy, New York. Troy, was once a leading producer of iron and, like many older industrial cities, has been battered by industrial decline and the migration of jobs to the suburbs. Bob has taught at independent, day, and boarding schools since 1978. He also has taught courses at the University of Connecticut and Skidmore College. Bob has worked with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to develop training materials for teachers in emerging democracies to help them lead discussion-based classes so their students can earn the skills needed to be active contributors in a democratic system.  He has also worked with the AFT to create materials for teachers helping students conduct oral history projects to capture the stories of civil rights activists.  He has served as an AP grader and table leader for AP US History examinations for over 15 years. Bob is an alumnus of CWI's Summer EAST Institute. He is now participating in an initiative to incorporate Service-Learning into the AP European History curriculum.  In his spare time, he likes to read, play the dulcimer or drums, and go kayaking or hiking, though rarely all at the same time.  
Teacher, Director of Kindergarten—American School Foundation—Mexico City
lili vargasLilia Vargas, is a veteran teacher at the American School Foundation (ASF) in Mexico City. She is a Mexican mother of three children. Lilia works in the Early Childhood Center at ASF, as the Activities Specialist and Kindergarten SEP Director. She shares that "Mexico City is a city of extremes: from those with the highest income, the well educated, owners of large corporations and their families; to those living on the street, with all the in-betweens, small business people, their employees, street markets and so on." Lilia holds a BA in Preschool Education and a Masters in Multidisciplinary Studies. She also has a BS in Accounting, but after becoming a mom, she became passionate about teaching, learning, and human development. She is an alumna of CWI's Summer WEST Institute. Lili says that the American School Foundation has always been one of the finest K-12 preparatory schools in the city, and intentionally seeks to contribute to the formation of better human beings—not only academically and tech savvy wise, but with strong humanitarian core values as principled, courageous, and caring citizens of the world. She is currently part of a team at ASF working to build authentic relationships and learning bridges between the school and the very local community.

Assistant Director of Civic Engagement, Adams State University, CO
kay lewisKay is the Assistant Director of Civic Engagement at Adams State University, in Alamosa, Colorado. Alamosa is a small city along the upper Rio Grande with the highest elevated farmland in the U.S., and a population of 8,700. Adams State is Colorado's first higher education institution to be federally designated a Hispanic Serving Institution. A majority of Adams State's students are low income, first generation students. Many students are non-traditional, coming back to school after years away or starting for the first time as adult learners. Many students work mutilple jobs, are athletes, and have their own families. As a recent alumna of CWI''s Summer WEST Institute, Kay says that she is drawn to Place Based Service-Learning because "it's important for myself and my students to be active members of the society in which we live. The more we are each involved, the stronger our sense of community and belonging will be." She shares that the disparity in her region is tangible. "We are one of the poorest rural communities in Colorado. Most of our population are farmers and ranchers, or work for the hospital or University." She is planning to use Collaborative Ethnography to connect her students wiht the community in much deeeper ways. read more about Kay's work.
Service-Learning and PE Teacher, Lemoore High School, Clovis, California
justin mclellandJustin teaches Physical Education and Service-Learning in Lemoore, California at the Lemoore Middle College High School. This is his first year teaching a new Service-Learning course there. Justin is also a recent alumnus of CWI's Summer WEST Institute. LMCHS is a charter public high school, located on the campus of West Hills Community College. Students have the opportunity to earn their high school diplomas and AA degrees at the same time. Lemoore is a small farming town in the central San Joaquin Valley, and is also home to a Naval Air Station. The San Joaquin Valley is a major agricultural area, often referred to as "the bread basket of the world". Yet it also has some of the highest poverty and hunger levels in the U.S. Justin's school has only 240 students, which allows for smaller class sizes and more in-depth interactions with students. Justin says, "As a teacher, I have a soft spot for underdogs. I like to find a way to connect with kids who don’t always fully connect with high school authority figures. Our service-learning class is working with the community college to design care packages for the homeless. Our city doesn’t have a homeless shelter, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem." Justin's class is also partnering with the community college on a food pantry, because the community college population has high levels of food insecurity and they want to find a way to address those needs.

Director of Community Action, The Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn, NY
alex gonzalesMatt is the Director of Community Action at The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York, and is an alumnus of CWI's Summer EAST Institute. He in now in his second year in this role, which also marks the second year of the position existence. It's an exciting time for Matt, and a very busy one, as he works with the school and local community partnerships to design a program that not only matches the mission of the school, but also meets the needs of the neighborhood and surrounding communities at large. Matt is a veteran educator, now in his second decade of classroom education. He continues the work he began as a 4th and 5th grade clasroom teacher, exploring questions of power with his students, pushing them to recognize their responsibilities to be engaged and empathic. This work later extended beyond his classroom as he moved into a new role as Service-Learning Coordinator for the Lower School at The Ethical Culture Fieldson School, and most recently at The Berkeley Carroll School, where his scope now includes all three divisions and over 900 students.
English Teacher-Facilitator, Decatur Central High School, Indianapolis, IN
kaylaKayla is an English Teacher-Facilitator in the Choice Community at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis. A veteran teacher, she has literally taught all grade levels and ability groups from elementary to high school, special education, honors and general education courses. Kayla says that the Choice Community at Decatur High School is an excellent place to be working on Collaborative Ethnography and Place-Based Service-Learning. Kayla's school focuses on Social, Global, and Environmental responsibility, using a service-learning model to help prepare students for the real world. Kayla is a recent alumna of CWI's Summer EAST Institute on Place Based Service-Learning and is excited about her involvement in Collaborative Ethnography work. Over the last several years at Decatur High School Kayla and her students have done: a Recycling Program for the high school; a Social Action class: and spent two years covering a variety of other local projects and issues. Her students also created a “Humans of Decatur” project based on Humans of New York. Upcoming curriculum projects include, increased participation with the school food pantry, and partnering with the local historical society to look at documenting local cemeteries and then researching the rich knowledge contained in the hsitory of the families buried there. more about Kayla's work

CWI Faculty, CTG Program Associate, Los Angeles, CA
felipe sanchezFelipe is a passionate promoter of deeper understanding and dialogue, around the preservation of unique local culture and neighborhoods, particularly in his home neighborhood of Los Angeles. As a longtime faculty member of CWI's Summer WEST Institute he has supported our ongoing development of strong place based components within the Institute, including sharing his expertise in local history, especially around the history and culture of murals in Los Angeles. Felipe is a Program Associate with Center Theater Group, in Los Angeles, where he works closely with area schools as an educator and designer of innovative opportunities for youth leadership around advocacy of the arts. Felipe previously served as Operations Manager for The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), one of the most important educational and cultural resources in Los Angeles. Community murals represent social history, culture, and the opportunity for participatory democracy and collective action. Felipe espouses public art and performance, particularly community murals, as an organizing tool for addressing contemporary issues, fostering cross-cultural understanding and promoting civic dialogue. Felipe regularly shares discovered connections between his own experiences through his study of local history and community murals in downtown Los Angeles.

Photographer, Artist, Otis College of Art and Design
Las Photas, Venice Arts, Los Angeles, CA
cecilia aranaCeci is an Otis College of Art and Design graduate, with a Bachelors of Fine Art and Community Arts Engagement. She will soon be pursuing her Master’s in Education/Teaching. Ceci majored in Fine Art Photography, with two minors, one in Illustration and the other in Community Arts Engagement.She is also an alumna of CWI’s Summer WEST Institute. As someone who has experienced the disadvantages of the educational programs where she lives in South Central Los Angeles first-hand, she wishes to continue learning in order to return and teach others. She currently mentors at the Las Fotos Project, as well as Venice Arts (two organizations that focus on low income communities). Ceci teaches students from all ages the art of storytelling through photography, film, and book making. It is important for Ceci that young people begin to use storytelling and art to share their experiences, their stories, as well as share their voices. She is a strong believer that through the empowerment of the youth, change will begin to happen. more about Ceci's work

Service-Learning Coordinator, Cultural Advisor, International School of Dakar, Senegal
gaucherGaucher is a teacher at the International School of Dakar, in Senegal, West Africa. His work there is multi-faceted and includes teaching Physical Education to Middle and High School students. He also serves in the crucial role of ISD's “cultural advisor”, assisting the school community in gaining better insights of the host country Senegal. Among other activities, Gaucher organizes cultural orientation for new teachers and parents who are newly arrived in Senegal. In addition, he is the Service-Learning Coordinator at ISD. He shares that Senegal is the country of “Teranga” (hospitality) where people "vie with each" other for kindness and care toward foreigners. Gaucher describes Senegal and Dakar as a country, and a city of contrasts, where modernism and rural traditions evolve in total harmony. He also leads a faculty retreat and engage his students in community service learning projects with local schools and communities. Gacuher is an alumnus of CWI's Summer WEST Institute. He says, "I hope that my students see me as a role model who makes an impact on them, the same kind of impact I witness in them positively effect other local youth that they interact with during our service-learning projects. "I believe that using Ethnography greatly facilitates our implementation of service projects by helping us better know our community." 

Science Teacher, Laguna Blanca School, Santa Barbara, CA
landonLandon is beginning his twenty-fourth year of teaching middle school Science at Laguna Blanca School, a K-12 independent day school in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is a city on the central California coast, with the Santa Ynez Mountains as dramatic backdrop. Landon teaches 5th grade STEM, 6th grade Human Biology, and 7th grade Environmental Science. He also runs the garden program in the middle school. Landon is an alumnus of CWI's Summer WEST Institute. He hopes to include an ethnographic component to a current collaborative project he and his students do regarding food and migration.

Service-Learning Director, Emma Willard School, Troy, NY
alex gonzalesGemma Halfi is an educator at Emma Willard School, an all-girls boarding high school located in Troy, New York. educator She works in many “non-traditional classroom” settings at her school. Troy, was once a leading producer of iron and, like many older industrial cities, has been battered by industrial decline and the migration of jobs to the suburbs. As a member of the Residential Faculty, Gemma has developed and is currently coordinating a unique residential educational experience for twenty students that is founded in the concept of “Positive World Change”. Students who live in this special residence hall are all committed to exploring ways that they can make a positive impact on the world, including Service Learning, Social Justice, Diversity, Environmentalism, Human Rights, Advocacy & Activism, Consumer Ethics, Democracy, and Permaculture. Gemma has also developed and is now piloting a new Service-Learning program at Emma Willard—working in conjunction with many academic instructors to connect their curricular content to the authentic needs of the local and global community. Gemma is a member of the Justice, Equity, and Diversity Institute through the New York State Association of Independent Schools, and has attended Service-Learning conferences sponsored by NYSAIS, CSEE, and of course, CWI. She is passionate about the connection between Service-Learning and Justice, Equity, and Diversity. Gemma believes that it is not possible to engage in meaningful and impactful service without simultaneously examining the relevant issues of injustice or inequity. Gemma also coordinates the Emma Willard School spring break travel programs, affording opportunities for global engagement for her students in which they can grow and learn outside of their normal mode of operation. Gemma says she is "passionate about empowering others to create positive change in the world!"

Spanish Teacher, The Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY
alex gonzalesEmily teaches Spanish at The Hackley School in Tarrytown, located just north of New York City in very affluent Westchester County. As a modern language teacher, she has dedicated her life to helping students learn language to connect across linguistic, cultural and, often times, ideological differences. She believes that "giving people a common currency, language, with which to authentically communicate, understand and challenge their preconceived notions of reality in the world today, is essential to her mission as a language educator. Becoming skilled, culturally competent communicators with those with whom we have disparate life-experience can create a community where all constituents: faculty, staff, parents, board members and students, feel their unique perspectives are genuinely affirmed and respected." Emily shares that the integration of Service-Learning into her curricula eight years ago has provided the essential, meaningful and genuine real-life experiences that students need to achieve these goals. Her students' reflections often note that this is “one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences” of their junior/senior year because it incorporates working with a population that many have not had direct contact with before. The experience working with a community with the language that they have studied for so long, but have not employed in a real-world context. This desire to use language to connect with and better understand the diverse lived experience of Latinos in Westchester County is a driving force of the project. Students also share that this project makes them more aware of their privilege and the dangers of 'living in a bubble,' realizing that their life on the Hackley hilltop is not the reality for the majority of the population of Westchester County. Emily is an alumna of CWI's Summer WEST Institute on Place Based Service-Learning

Founder, PBL facilitator, PBL coach , Meliora Program—Chicago, IL
charleneCharlene Doland is a co-founder and an academic coach at Meliora. She is a recent alumna of CWI's Summer EAST Institute. Meliora is a project based learning (PBL) initiative in the Chicago suburbs that offers humanities courses for students in grades 6–12. PBL is a student- and interest-centered methodology that provides opportunities for students to investigate topics of their own choosing within a defined framework. Charlene recently wrote an insightful piece for Community Works Journal, "My Student Named Sam and Differentiated Learning in PBL," read that here. In a PBL environment, students develop not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking, analytical, technology, research, collaboration and communication skills. Charlene seeks to #inspirepassion in teens by amplifying student voice and by offering choice in how students demonstrate their evidence of learning. In keeping with CWI’s principles of place-based service-learning, Meliora students are currently developing transmedia stories to resolve “dystopias” in their communities. read more about Charlene's work
Teaching Artist, Pomona, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles
aida lugoAida is Multi-disciplinary artist from Pomona, California. She is extremely interested in Los Angeles history. Aida holds a Bachelors of Fine Art and Community Arts Engagement from Otis College of Art and Design, along with a certificate from UCLArts and Healing: Social Emotional Arts Certificate Program. Aida is also an alumna of CWI's Summer WEST Institute. Her fields of study include: Sculpture New Genres; Installation Art; Film; Photography; Drawing; and Painting. Aida's artistic mission is to work with local communities on projects using art to beautify and strengthen our personal and collective identity and our environment. Aida is very interested in bringing together communities from all along the Los Angeles River around a connected cause—to free the River from it's concrete "tomb" and be able to utilize it as a natural resource. "The River in its current state needs love and attention from the community to begin to get involved in revitalization efforts and envision what the future of the River looks like for us." "I would like to partner with different environmental and arts non profits to document the River and surrounding communities through photo and film and capture what we would like to see the LA River become." Aida's CommonLore related goals include encouraging her students to get directly involved, beginning with establishing communication with law makers and people in charge of the revitalization effort. She will also be working with her students to make positive change by going through the process required to propose and ultimately design and install public art

District Community-Based Learning Coordinator, Portland Community College, Oregon
diane shingledeckerDiane is now working with an Anthropology  instructor on an Ethnography project that will look at similarities and differences between urban and suburban communities in the U.S. and Ireland. She is the District Community-Based Learning Faculty Coordinator for Career Technical Education at Portland Community College (PCC) in Oregon. Throughout her college career, Diane has coordinated a variety of service-learning projects in an unlikely combination of disciplines. These projects enable students to see how they can address community issues utilizing the skills they have acquired in their classes. As an example, her students conducted a survey project that revealed the breadth of housing insecurity throughout the PCC campus community and a collaborative food insecurity cohort that is bringing together faculty, staff, students, and community partners to accomplish more as a team than as separate entities. Diane's Ireland-Portland Ethnography Project will engage students in learning about their local communities in downtown Portland, Oregon and its surrounding neighborhoods as well as Dublin, Cork, and rural Irish towns. Students develop their Collaborative Ethnography interviewing skills together in Portland, with some students then contining this work in Ireland. Others will continue their work in suburban Portland communities. more about Diane's work

Professor of Sociology, California State University, Northridge, Director, CSUN Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, Northridge, CA
david boynDavid leads the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing at California State University at Northridge. He and his colleagues work to develop creative collaborations in the local community between university partners and community stakeholders. David is also an alumnus of CWI's Summer WEST Institute.Service-learning is an important part of the campus curriculum at CSUN, and is also central to the mission of CSUN's Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing. David and his staff work closely with the community of Canoga Park as part of a Neighborhood Partners in Action Program (NPA). As a part of NPA, and in collaboration with Canoga Park community leaders, they have established sustainability as an area of focus, and in particular, efforts related to the LA River. Canoga Park High School which lies adjacent to the headwaters of the LA River is one of their key partners. David and his staff would like to invigorate CSUN–CPHS, and their Canoga Park collaborations surrounding the LA River and sustainability in general. David is a professional sociologist by training, with a particular interest in community-based participatory research. He is interested in learning more about creative efforts to engage communities via the LA River and sustainability practices. Storytelling, narrative, creative arts, and visual ethnography (photovoice) are particular interests of his. He has been excited to learn more about the creative efforts of others through CommonLore, as well as establishing local area connections with other community and education leaders.


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