Jamy Stillman began her career as a bilingual teacher for fourth and fifth grades in an agricultural community on California’s Central Coast. Those experiences planted the seeds of her growing enthusiasm for leading teacher education and working with teachers in their communities to ensure all children receive an excellent education.

An associate professor of educational equity and cultural diversity, Stillman is the chair of the elementary education programs, and chair of the undergraduate major in elementary education, which was launched in fall 2017.

Stillman was drawn to CU Boulder’s School of Education because its values of equity and justice aligned with her own.

Teaching isn’t just a job. It’s a path that positions people to make the world a more just place.”

Her research focuses on intersections between cultural and linguistic diversity in public schools, teacher education and learning, educational policy, and elementary literacy instruction.  

Stillman explores how teacher education students and practicing teachers navigate the demands of high-stakes accountability policies and standards-based reforms, particularly in high-poverty, underresourced schools serving students from historically underserved communities, especially bi/multilingual students.

“I’m focused on various dimensions of teachers’ learning, including teachers’ understandings about the equity- and justice-related dilemmas they face in the classroom,” she said, “especially what teachers can do when particular policies conflict with their own values and professional knowledge about teaching bi/multilingual students. This work with practicing teachers has led me to ask similar questions about how we’re preparing new teachers to go out and critically navigate the terrain they’re walking into.”

Stillman received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego and a master’s degree and bilingual, multiple-subject teaching credential from the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a new teacher in an equity-focused professional development school, she was mentored by veteran bilingual teachers, many of them activists in the community. Stillman was later invited to join a professional development project, the Optimal Learning Environment (OLE), which focused on equity and social justice for bilingual students.

Through the OLE project, Stillman worked with teachers of migrant students across the Southwest to provide more responsive, asset-oriented literacy instruction that valued and built upon students’ cultural and linguistic wealth.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned a doctorate, Stillman served as a field supervisor in the teacher education program, which entailed visiting elementary schools and overseeing student teachers placed in high-poverty schools.

Now in her third year at CU, Stillman continues to be inspired by the teacher educators and students who are committed to embedding justice and equity into their research and teaching. What stands out about CU’s teacher education programs, unlike those at peer institutions, is that nearly all teaching is being done by tenure-line faculty, she said.

“It’s a unique dynamic that says something important about our commitment to teacher education,” Stillman said.

The new elementary education major is for future teachers specifically interested in elementary education and, after completing extensive specialized coursework, graduates also earn an endorsement in cultural and linguistic diversity. The degree draws on the existing strengths and resources of the School of Education, which is widely recognized for its evidence-based academic programs and its commitment to diversity, democracy, equity and justice.

It’s a good time for the new elementary education degree, as Colorado and the nation face growing teacher shortages, particularly in high-need areas and among teachers prepared to work with diverse populations, including bi/multilingual learners.

“Teaching isn’t just a job. It’s a path that positions people to make the world a more just place,” Stillman said. “I’m inspired that there continue to be people who understand teaching’s importance and choose that path even when the current public discourse about teachers can be negative.

“I feel energized by the urgency of doing this work and putting excellent teachers in schools,” she continued. “We’re committed to preparing humanizing teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse learners. That’s at the core of everything we’re doing here.”