“I believe my role as a teacher is that of a fellow traveler along the road to knowledge—a guide rather than a taskmaster.”
Education professor Tiffany Wheeler encourages her students to search for knowledge across disciplines. One of her favorite examples of a student who successfully accomplished that goal is an elementary education and religion double major who was accepted into Harvard University graduate programs in both education and divinity.
"She chose the divinity program, but was able to incorporate her education interests into it," says Wheeler. "After graduating from Harvard, she became an elementary teacher in an international school."
Such cross-disciplinary connections are part of becoming a "public intellectual who cares," according to Wheeler. "Liberally educated teachers foster an intellectual curiosity in their students that will help them develop into lifelong learners."
Wheeler engages her students in discussions about a variety of challenging questions: What is the purpose of schooling? Is education a right or a privilege? Does the U.S. truly value all of its children?
She also encourages them to wrestle with issues that many people find difficult to discuss, such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic inequality, and stereotypes. Wheeler has deep insights into those topics, thanks in part to her participation in a summer institute on civil rights at Harvard University in 2011. She was one of 25 professors chosen for the program from more than 100 applicants nationwide. Wheeler draws heavily on that experience in the course she teaches on Race, Ethnicity, and Social Class in American Education, as well as in her role as chair of the Diversity Issues Subcommittee of the Transylvania President's Advisory Council.