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Meet Our Fellows

Karen Brinkley

Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School

2022 Spring Enrollment: Taking up the Mantle: African American Women Writers After Morrison

Teaching as a second career with the School District of Philadelphia for 20 years is one of my best life decisions. For 13 years, I was the middle school special education learning support teacher, and for six years, I taught sixth and eighth grade English Language Arts. Currently, I am the School-Based Teacher Leader at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School.

My interest in the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia was initiated by their commitment to providing public school teachers exceptional free professional development comparable to a graduate-level semester course. The scholarly discussion, research, weekly seminar, and final curriculum unit improved my instructional practice.

Taking up the Mantle: African American Women Writers After Morrison, led by Dr. Herman Beavers, has been a rewarding intellectual experience. Dr. Beavers challenges me to analyze diverse African American authors and genres as a “literary critic,” an essential instructional strategy to implement with students. For example, in the seminar, we scrutinized the concept of memory when reading Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” and Ayana Mathis’s “Twelve Tribes of Hattie” from the perspective of a reliable versus unreliable narrator. The seminar highlights the importance of engaging in authentic, courageous conversations that will enrich students’ critical thinking skills by examining and discussing African American trauma via literature.” The seminar empowers me to ponder and reflect on synthesizing and evaluating the complexity of Black life, specifically when considering the historical and current racial crises. African Americans are not monolithic! An essential question that I contemplate. How can I effectively disseminate seminar content and strategies to my students? I want my students to be equipped to dismantle the oppressive society instead of being passive consumers. Often, the profound comments from Dr. Beavers and seminar fellows motivate me to reexamine my initial beliefs. Ultimately, the seminar continues to reinforce the POWER of language.