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Cheryl E. Matias, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Urban Community Teacher Education


1. Affiliate faculty Master's of Social Science (College​ of Liberal Arts and Sciences)

2. National research affiliate ISEEED

3. Co-founder of Research Advocacy in Critical Education (R.A.C.E)​ 


1. 2014 AERA Division K Innovations in Research on Diversity in Teacher Education awardee

2. 2015 University of Colorado Rosa Parks Diversity Awardee

3. 2015 School of Education and Human Development Researcher of the Year

My Counterstory*
I was born and raised in Los Angeles where public schools adhered to standardized curriculum and pedagogies devoid of any social analysis or recognition of race relations. As such, the daily lived racial experiences of students of color, as myself, were ignored and inherently deemed unimportant, thus forcing students of color to find development of their racial identity at alternative educational structures (i.e. on the streets of Los Angeles.) As a former public school teacher in both Los Angeles Unified School District (South Los Angeles) and New York City Department of Education (Bedford-Stuyvesant), I observed the same phenomenon happening to my Black and Brown students. Notwithstanding the raceless effects of standardized curriculum, I designed a standards-based history curriculum on the evolution of race and racism in American society. I then document the curriculum’s impact on the symbiotic development of racial identities of Black, White, Latino/Chicano, and Asian Pacific American high school students. By translating Critical Race Theory (CRT) into K-12 pedagogical and curricular practices, my students had access to lingua franca and concepts to better analyze race in society and bridge that understanding to their positive development of their own racial identities.


Analyzing race in society is just one of the many layers to my research agenda and identity. Subscribing to the principles of CRT, I acknowledge the intersectionality of class, gender, sexual orientation, and all forms of social, ideological, and political oppression. As a female faculty of color (Pinay) and motherscholar, I continue to struggle towards social justice in all realms of our society for the hope of a better fuller humanity. I am the faculty coordinator of Research Advocacy in Critical Education (R.A.C.E.), a new think tank and support system for Coloradan researchers, activists, staff and students committed to justice and advocacy in critical education. Contact for more information.


The below poem better encapsulates my life. Read it and contact me for a soy latte.

A Rose that Grew from Concrete
Lyricist and Activist: Tupac Shakur
Queen of Poetry: Nikki Giovanni

[Tupac Shakur]
You try to plant somethin in the conrete, y'knowhatImean?
If it GROW, and the rose petal got all kind of
scratches and marks, you not gon' say, "Damn, look at
all the scratches and marks on the rose that grew from concrete"
You gon' be like, "Damn! A rose grew from the concrete?!"
Same thing with me, y'knahmean? I grew out of all of this
Instead of sayin, "Damn, he did this, he did this,"
just be like, "DAMN! He grew out of that? He came out of that?"
That's what they should say, y'knowhatImean?
All the trouble to survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty
y'knowhahatImean unbelievable lifestyle they gave me
I'm just tryin to make somethin..

[Nikki Giovanni]
When no one even cared
The rose it grew from concrete
Keepin all these dreams
Provin nature's laws wrong
It learned how to walk without havin feet
It came from concrete

[spoken part]
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Provin nature's laws wrong it learned how to walk without havin feet
Funny it seems but, by keepin its dreams
it, learned to breathe FRESH air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else even cared
No one else even cared..
The rose that grew from concrete

[spoken part]
Did you hear..
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Provin nature's laws wrong
It learned to walk without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
it learned to breathe FRESH air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else, even cared

[Nikki Giovanni]
Keepin all these dreams
Provin nature's laws wrong
It learned how to walk without havin feet (to breathe the fresh air)
It came from concrete (to breathe the fresh air)
(to breathe the fresh air, to breathe the fresh air)

[Tupac Shakur]
You see you wouldn't ask why the rose that grew from the concrete
had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its
tenacity. We would all love it's will to reach the sun.
Well, we are the rose - this is the concrete - and these are
my damaged petals. Don't ask me why, thank God nigga, ask me how!

*Instead of viewing a website, contact me to get to know me at

My students at University of Colorado Denver:
I demand nothing less than the best of my students because I owe it to both them and our many students of color historically forced to locate in urban communities. I put my students and myself through rigor, critical self-exploration, and constant re-evaluation of society as we know it, which at times is disconcerting. However, I support my students in developing a degree of comfort in dissonance precisely because it is the fundamental catalyst for social justice.

Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:

  • Social Foundations and Cultural Diversity in Urban Education: UEDU 4010/5010
  • Exploring Diversity in Content and Pedagogy I: UEDU 4040/5040
  • Exploring Diversity in Content and Pedagogy II: UEDU 4050/5050

My research interests:

  • Race and Ethnic Studies in Education via Critical Race Theory, Critical Social Theory, reconstructive race research
  • Socio-cultural contexts of urban education
  • Culturally responsive and critical multicultural curriculum development
  • Social justice action research
  • Critical literacy development, cultural communication, critical Whiteness studies
  • Racial identity development in response to innovative history and critical media curriculum
  • Feminists of color (Peminism), motherscholars, and deconstructing patriarchy

My hobbies:
I am an avid runner, devoted Lakers fan, 90s hip hop and R&B enthusiast, who enjoys spending time with my young boy-girl twins.

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