When I call Gloria Ladson-Billings up to talk about her receiving a Presidential Citation at the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend, she tells me that she doesn’t have a whole lot of time for the interview.
Why? Because she was on her way to getting a different prestigious award at the UW School of Education.
“I’m going to be getting the 2017 Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award. Richard Halverson [of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis] was also being honored with me,” Ladson-Billings tells Madison365. “But, yes, after that I will be heading to San Antonio for the Presidential Citation. Every AERA president has the right to present the Presidential Citation for what they see as outstanding service or education research.”
The American Educational Research Association (AERA), a national research society, strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Recipients the AERA Presidential Citation are selected by the president of AERA, Vivian Gadsen. Ladson-Billings is being recognized for her exemplary contributions to education research and practice.
“When I was president [of AERA] my citation went to a woman named Beverly M. Gordon from Ohio State because I actually saw her as somebody who is kind of unsung who did tons of work for the association and for the field,” says Ladson-Billings, who holds the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and is a professor with the departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Policy Studies, and Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison. “She actually was a UW grad many years ago before I even came here.
“So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the current president decided to give me the award,” she adds. “I was really, really struck by this. I was really touched.”
Ladson-Billings’ groundbreaking work on culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory center on examining the practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. She is well known for her book, “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children,” which was first published in 1994 and continues to be used in teacher education programs around the country.
Last time I caught up with Ladson-Billings, we were talking about how she was elected the next president of the National Academy of Education, which advances high-quality research to improve education policy and practice in the United States. Its members are a very distinguished and a very select group of education experts from all over the nation and world. Her term as president will begin in the fall of 2017 and will last four years.
“I’m really excited about that,” she says. “We actually overlap our meetings because we have so many of the same people at this [AERA] event. So, I will be attending some National Academy of Education meetings while I’m there [in San Antonio].
The AERA Annual Meeting will start on Thursday and runs until Monday. The AERA, founded in 1916, is concerned with improving the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education and evaluation and by promoting the dissemination and practical application of research results. The AERA is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning.
“This is a huge conference and we expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000-plus people,” she says. “This year’s theme is really focused on ‘Knowledge to Action: Achieving the Promise of Equal Educational Opportunity.’ It will be faculty from all over the country. You are looking at something over 1,100 different sessions to choose from. The conference itinerary looks like the old-school phone book.”
Prestigious awards are coming fast and furious for Ladson-Billings. Which makes me curious: Does she have to buy a new outfit every time she gets another award?
“Haha. That’s how I frame it in my household,” Ladson-Billings laughs. “I don’t think that’s the rule … but we won’t tell my husband that.
“But I’m really excited. I’m glad to be acknowledged. When the honors come in bunches you have to worry a little bit about what people are trying to say. I’m getting nervous that people are acting like I’m going somewhere or about to check out,” she adds, smiling. “I’m still here … and I think I’m actually in decently good shape!”