Emory Report

May 30, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 34

Jefferson Award: Jacqueline Jordan Irvine

Irvine schools teachers in diversity

By Eric Rangus

Very surprised. Very honored." That's how Jacqueline Jordan Irvine described her reaction to receiving the Thomas Jefferson Award, which rewards faculty members for exemplary service.

"I'm pleased that my colleagues thought that much of my volunteer contributions in the last 21 years," she said.

The Jefferson Award, created in 1962, is named for the third president and author of the Declaration of Independence because the personal and professional qualities of the recipient match those considered by Jefferson to be essential for society's social, political and intellectual advancement.

Specifically, award recipients are measured on the quality and depth of their teaching, research and scholarship, nonacademic accomplishments with students, University advancement and development, and community and educational service.

With those qualifications in mind, Irvine makes for a worthy recipient. The Candler Professor of Urban Education joined Emory's educational studies faculty in 1979 after earning her bachelor's and master's degrees at Howard University and her doctorate at Georgia State.

She sits on the planning committee for the Year of Reconciliation, and since joining the faculty Irvine has served on more than 40 educational studies, college and University committees.

She's part of a department whose teacher program earned national accreditation earlier this year. This process takes three years; Emory's needed just one.

Irvine's research interests include issues of race, gender, class and culture in schools and the implementation of effective instructional strategies to address increasing student diversity in elementary and middle schools.

Since the Atlanta area is experiencing a large influx of immigrants, many of whom do not speak English, Irvine said diversity in the classroom is an important issue.

As far as the Atlanta metro area's schools preparedness to address diversity issues, Irvine said the task is a work in progress. "[The Atlanta area] has always thought of itself as a place that was just black and white. Other places are better prepared. We call ourselves an 'international city,' but we are learning and feeling our way through this. I can't think of a department that doesn't deal with this issue. Business, law, physicians-how do they deal with diversity?"

And so the Center for Urban Learning/Teaching and Urban Research in Education and Schools (CULTURES) was born with Irvine as its director and driving force.

CULTURES aims to raise cultural awareness in elementary and middle school students by offering professional development to teachers. It consists of classes and "cultural immersion trips" offered each year to teachers from urban diverse schools throughout the metro area.

Past trips have included visits with Hispanic-immigrant mothers, African American children in after-school programs and Vietnamese social workers.

While CULTURES can't directly reach every teacher, the program takes advantage of what Irvine calls "the multiplier effect," which occurs when teachers who have been through the program share their experiences and new knowledge with others.

Irvine is particularly proud of her department's master's program in teaching, which focuses on students whose undergraduate degrees are in disciplines other than education.

"Our goal is to increase the number of teachers who work with culturally diverse students. They don't just work in affluent suburban schools. They receive a wide range of experience [in dealing with culturally diverse students]," she said.

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