Design. Make. Problem solve. It’s the stuff that might motivate a person to major in electrical engineering. Or become an educator.
For Thomas M. Philip, who earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley, what he felt was missing in his field was building relationships with people to co- construct environments in which people could be change agents.
He found it in education at the GSE.
“Earning my PhD in education at Berkeley, I found a vibrant and galvanizing space both intellectually and politically. I grew from dialogue across very diverse and divergent stances,” said Philip. “Berkeley shaped who I am as a person, who I am as a scholar.”
He’s returned to Berkeley as an Associate Professor and faculty director of the teacher education program, Berkeley Educators for Equity and Excellence (BE3), just as the program has been revamped into an 18-month program that offers a master’s degree and teaching credential.
“Considering this political moment for our nation and for teacher education – with the undermining of the public and emergence of new forms of polarization – I’m grateful to be back at Berkeley and to be working with teachers and prospective teachers to think about ways in which we can employ our expertise and our perspectives to address the most consequential issues in education today,” he said.
BE3 prepares teachers who are committed to creating powerful and enriching classrooms that embody and work toward a more just world. Prospective teachers seek to cultivate classrooms that are joyful, where students and teachers authentically care for each other, and where teachers foster students’ curiosity and love for learning. BE3 graduates gain tools to generatively engage with research as they approach their own classrooms and schools as sites for purposeful investigation. They leave Berkeley with the deep appreciation for teaching as a lifelong endeavor – a craft that deepens through an intentional stance of inquiry over time.
“With my colleagues, I look forward to making BE3 a model of high quality teacher education that builds on the strengths, interests, and aspirations of local communities while becoming an asset to local schools,” Philip said. “In an era where teaching is increasingly viewed through a technical lens, we seek to fundamentally value the ability for teachers to work with students, parents, and communities to create schools that are powerful learning environments and sites for social transformation.”
As a former high school teacher in Los Angeles, Philip recalls experiencing both the possibilities and limitations that teachers encounter within institutional systems that disregard the ability, potential, and resolve of students and teachers.
“The agency and creativity of teachers are often dismissed or overlooked,” he said. “The work of teachers is increasingly con- trolled by others further removed from the classroom. Such top down control and prescriptions take away the creative capacity of teachers, and diminish their ability to do what is contextually most important and appropriate for their students.”
Shifting the experience for both teachers and students, he has found, is possible when teachers have the space to critically and collaboratively reflect on classroom dynamics, particularly questions of authority, privilege, and power.
“Creating more equitable and just classrooms requires us to examine and address how structural inequities shape classroom relationships and how interactions in the classroom reproduce or transform societal patterns,” Philip said. “In addition to pre- paring teachers who are committed to such critical reflection, I look forward to partnerships with local schools that make such deliberate practice the touchstone of teaching.”