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School of Education and Human Development University of Colorado Denver

School of Education and Human Development

Antwan Jefferson, Ph.D

Clinical Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Relations & Urban Community Teacher Education

My story:

It seems like a trick question to try to tell my own story. Not only is it still unfolding, but I struggle with the pressure to present my life’s story in a (chrono)logical way. History is neatest when revised.

My earliest memory is playing with a battery-powered triceratops with glowing red eyes with my brother Mike. The dinosaur could only walk in one direction and didn’t have a remote, and I remember us pointing it to the stairs to see if it could manage to walk down. It couldn’t, no doubt, but it was a pretty exciting endeavor nonetheless. With the help of family, my mother raised us (including my younger brother, Chris) on her own. To be honest, I think that this single-parent home environment speaks most to my research interests and professional interests.

I didn’t want to become a teacher until I was 19. Prior to that time, I only wanted to be a doctor. The first profession that I was able to name somehow became the only profession I’d considered for college. It wasn’t until I began volunteering at community centers and schools in Atlanta that I thought of education as a possible career field, and it was a simple comment from a student at Booker T. Washington High School that caused my mental gears to spin: “Antwan, man, you would make a good teacher.” Dallas Tilley sold me on the prospect of a career in education because he was getting what I was giving, and I believed him.

After six years in high school classrooms in Providence, Rhode Island; Norfolk Virginia; and here in Denver, I stepped away from the classroom to work in a local church as the youth pastor. I saw this as a chance to give myself a bit of a reprieve from the physical and emotional costs of working with five sets of 25-30 students per day. Since stepping away from the classroom, I’ve learned that schools are important to me, and that families are important to me as well.

I earned my PhD in Educational Leadership and Innovation from CU Denver and remained on the faculty following completion of my degree. This is a fairly unusual outcome for any doctoral student, and even is ill-advised. However, I pursued and completed my PhD for three reasons:

  1. I participate in communities throughout the city that experience several social and education challenges; they grant me the privilege of struggling with them.
  2. My great grandmother, Florence Caroline Washington, passed away in 2013 at age 100, after a life as a domestic in Virginia. My mother, Gail, raised 3 sons, often struggling to see that we had what we needed. Both of these women made sacrifices from which I benefit. They deserve to see a PhD among their lineage.
  3. My wife, son and daughter.

My students at University of Colorado Denver:​

Keep me humble. I’ve learned, and continue to learn that there is no personal story that I can predict; and this is one of the most important things I can share with my students.

Courses I teach at CU Denver:

  • HDFR 1020: Black and Latino Children
  • HDFR 3002: Preparing to be a Helping Professional
  • HDFR 3260: Family Systems and Social Justice
  • HDFR 4010: Family and Cultural Diversity
  • HDFR 7260: Family Diversity and Social Justice
  • EDFN 7410: Power and Privilege: The Social Construction of Difference

My research interests:

  • Family-School Interaction
  • Liberatory Public Education
  • Thirdspaces in Public Education

My hobbies:

I am a fair-weather Denver outdoorsman. In the summer, I ride bikes on trails, roads and mountains. I hike. I raft. I run. In the winter, when it gets cold, I stay inside waiting on the warm weather to return. Maybe I’ll reread Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me or Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed or Bale and Knopp’s Education and Capitalism. These are the types of texts that influence my thinking.

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