19 Jul 2022

Brown Urban Education Fellowship

Josh Pereira


When Daaé Ransom was in kindergarten, the magnet school she attended in Massachusetts was filled with classmates who looked just like her.

“Everyone was a shade of brown,” said Ransom, who is biracial.

Within the year, she and her sister transitioned to a suburban school.

“My sister and I were the only people of color in the entire school,” said Ransom. “Only two of the 300 students were students of color.”

The educators were all white.

“My first-grade teacher was critical of me — especially of the way I talked,” said Ransom. “It was devastating and stayed with me a long time.”

She was taught by just one educator of color until she entered college.

A graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology, her coursework and research experiences revealed to her the variety of ways scientific literacy can be applied to everyday ventures — if students are given sufficient access to robust and engaging scientific education and comprehensive representations of scientists and scientific application.

Ransom, who once set her sights on becoming a doctor, is now focused on empowering students of color in the space of science.

“Once I came to understand my journey, I decided I wanted to work in education and teach those who looked like me,” she said. “Communities of color are typically community oriented. There is a different kind of familiarity among folks that bonds us — no matter where you are in the country — because the struggle is so real and so consistent in our society. School is no different. As a student of color walking into a classroom of a non-POC (person of color) teacher, I have typically felt like I had to hold myself back and engage less to fit in with their expectations and cultural norms. I imagine having a teacher of color would allow students to feel a bit more comfortable knowing that their teacher knows (through experience, not assumption) what our cultural norms are. There’s already that sense of community built on shared experiences. Expanding on that, it’s hard to imagine yourself in a place where you’ve never seen yourself. Seeing someone who looks like you, sounds like you, acts like you, in a field that you are interested in pursuing 1) affirms that there is space for you because someone else has already created it and 2) once you get there, there will be people on your side, cheering you along because they always seen success and greatness in our communities.”

The Papitto Opportunity Connection has partnered with the Brown Urban Education Fellowship Program and provides financial support for the program’s participants so they can focus on academics. This funding allows the Urban Education Fellowship Program to contribute to increasing the number of BIPOC teachers in schools.

“Having my basic/logistical needs met allows me to focus my efforts and energy on committing to my education — analyzing culturally responsive teaching and equity-based education resources and reflecting on how they will show up in my teaching philosophy and practice,” said Ransom. “The logistics are taken care of so I can focus on being the educator I want to be for the students. I’m extremely grateful.”

Upon completion of the program, she will be required to teach in Providence for a minimum of three years.

“To be able to work in schools with other like-minded educators who want to build an equitable and culturally responsible education system, I am really looking forward to that,” she said.

“I feel that my work here, in addition to the classroom, is to engage in collaborative experiences to refocus and reshape the expectations education has historically set for students of color or students of low-income status,” she added. “My goal ultimately is to restore students’ confidence in themselves and in the education system, to remind them that they are valued, that they deserve a meaningful education, and that they belong in any discipline they wish to pursue- but especially in science.”
Diane Silva Pimentel, PhD, director of the teacher education program at Brown University, said Ramson is a perfect fit for the program.

“Daaé’s strong academic abilities and commitment to making science education not only accessible but inviting and empowering for students in urban schools made her a clear match for the Brown University Master of Arts in Teaching Program,” Silva Pimentel “She is a dynamic individual whose excitement for working with young people in a culturally responsive and uplifting way will inspire our local students as they learn science.”

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