Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Kersha Smith

Committee Members

Wendy Luttrell

Ofelia García

Edwin Mayorga

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education | Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching | Art Education | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Caribbean Languages and Societies | Community-Based Learning | Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Methods | Educational Sociology | Higher Education and Teaching | Other Teacher Education and Professional Development | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social Justice


community teachers, community teaching, alumni teachers, alumni teaching, teacher professional development, portraiture, teacher life stories, life stories


This dissertation thesis examines the lived experiences, life stories, and storytelling of five Afro-Caribbean and Latina people, who are all local from the borough of Queens, alumni of New York City’s public schools, and since then, became their local public school teachers, classroom practitioners, and local community teachers. We refer to this specific and unique population of teachers as alumni-community teachers and to these and other similar stories as teacher life stories.

This qualitative research and study were conducted through a series of writing workshops and semi-structured interviews. The study’s main examination is preoccupied to understand how local teachers make meaning—hacen trenzas—about their lives and lived experiences, relating to their self-conceptualizations as teachers, teaching pedagogy and praxis, and stances on community teaching. The way this inquiry was studied was primarily through a narrative analysis of the study’s teacher-participants’ self-reflexive writing and oral stories about their lives—teacher life stories—which were read with analytical lenses and analytical tools to identify themes and gain a deeper understanding.

The first research finding centers on this sample of community teachers, who are all homegrown in this city, live in the same or similar communities of their lived experiences, and teach in similar schools as those they are alumni of, whenever possible.

The second research finding centers on an overall positive correlation and impact, for this sample of community teachers of having attended public schools and being taught by public school teachers as students themselves, and ultimately shaping and informing their own self-conceptualizations as teachers.

The third research finding centers on the importance of self-reflection for this sample of community teachers—both in this study, as well as benchmarks throughout their lives—ultimately shaping and informing conceptualizations of self, their teaching pedagogy, and praxis.

The study’s overall research findings are presented as retratos—individualized portraits of each of the study’s teacher-participants—by weaving collective knowledge alongside teacher life stories.

AQCTSP Life Stories.pdf (557 kB)
AQCTSP Teacher Life Stories