I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and grew up in the Bay Area after moving there at age three. After college, I spent three years teaching second grade bilingual and a first-second combo in East Oakland. The school had a dedicated group of teachers, parents and students with limitless potential, but disorganized district and school leadership could not keep it from failing No Child Left Behind. I worked with a team of parents and teachers to reconstitute it as a new small school. Our new school used frequent standards-based assessments to target instruction to individual students’ needs and supported teachers through professional learning communities, leading it to become one of Oakland’s most-improved schools.

Emily K. Penner Associate Professor of Education

I moved to Irvine when my partner took a job at UC Irvine, and I worked as a reading intervention specialist and English Language Development coordinator in Vista. While my students improved multiple grade levels with targeted reading intervention, the program was ultimately canceled due to the tumultuous financial and political climate in my district during the Great Recession. My experiences teaching in under-resourced schools, embedded in dynamic policy contexts, led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Education.