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Kara Mitchell Viesca

Associate Professor, Urban Community Teacher Education

My Story:

I taught middle school in both Virginia and California and became extremely concerned with various equity issues I saw in both my classroom and across the school contexts where I taught. I found it troubling to work within a system that punishes students for having difficult lives. I did not feel comfortable with the predictability of school failure for students based on their race, level of English proficiency, income level or family circumstance; but, I also did not know what to do about this discomfort. As these questions around social justice and equity mounted, an opportunity for me to teach in China came about and I spent a year in Asia mulling over these pressing questions as I taught, traveled, and even volunteered in Sri Lanka after the devastating tsunami. During this time I started to understand some of the issues around injustice and inequity and why it is critical for me to focus my life’s work around battling them.

Overall during my time in Asia, it felt like I stood on a cliff of power and privilege granted to me by my American passport, white skin, and native English speaking-ness. However, this was a disturbing position to stand in because my cliff of power and privilege overlooked a gulf of misery, poverty, and powerlessness that was densely populated and somehow too distant and abstract for me to do anything about. In fact, efforts I did make, like volunteering in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, only seemed to widen the gap between my power and privilege and the suffering and misery I was striving to eliminate.

I returned to the United States to pursue a PhD from Boston College in Curriculum and Instruction and followed a path of study that helped me engage with my questions about systemic issues of inequity and injustice at a level where I now feel equipped to actually battle these horrible issues rather than unknowingly perpetuate them. There is a quote a friend of mine shared with me during my time at Boston College, that really sums up both what I learned from my studies there and how I attempt to engage with all of my work now:

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." Lila Watson (Aboriginal Australian Elder)

Simply put, as a teacher educator at CU Denver, I strive to live this quotation as a committed collaborator with urban schools, teachers, students, and communities in order to effectively battle various issues of inequity and injustice and create a system of education that is truly transformative and no longer a deterministic game of failure for students based on their race, level of English proficiency, income-level, or family circumstance.

My Students at University of Colorado Denver:

It is my hope that the students I work with at CU Denver, both teacher candidates and doctoral students, will join me in my battle against inequity. I hope they too will become aware of their own power and privilege as well as the situations and issues in which they are powerless and face injustice. Together we can work with other teachers, students, administrators and community members to find solutions to pressing issues of inequity in urban schools and support high levels of student engagement and learning.

Classes I Teach:
  • Exploring Diversity in Content and Pedagogy 1 & 2 - UEDU 4040/5040 & 4050/5050
  • Co-Developing Culturally Responsive Classroom Communities - UEDU 4020/5020
  • Secondary Literacy Instruction and Assessment - UEDU 4100/5100
  • Thematic Dissertation Group for EdD -DSEP 8994
  • Writing Seminar for Doctoral Students
My Research Interests:

My research agenda focuses on advancing equity in the policy and practice of educator development, with a particular focus on multilingual learners and their teachers. I am mainly a qualitative researcher conducting studies that examine:

  • Teacher education at CU Denver and in Colorado generally
  • Educator development for teachers of multilingual learners, and
  • The actual policies and implementation of new teacher evaluation systems in Colorado and beyond.
My Hobbies:

I enjoy running, barre classes, yoga, outdoor activities, home improvement projects and anything that gives me time with my husband and our two incredibly cute miniature schnauzers!

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