March 1, 2017

Teacher Education Program alumnus puts social justice principles into action

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The Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Penn GSE has at the heart of its mission a commitment to social justice and urban education. The program focuses on developing education leaders who are prepared to teach diverse learners and promote equity in education.

Penn GSE alum Charlie McGeehan. Photograph courtesy of Bryan Karl Lathrop.

TEP alumnus Charlie McGeehan is putting these ideals into practice as a humanities teacher at the U School, a nonselective public high school in North Philadelphia. This January, McGeehan served as an organizer for the Black Lives Matter Week of Action, a week that focused on racial and social justice in Philadelphia’s schools and communities.

Coordinated by the Caucus of Working Educators, the week featured an interdisciplinary curriculum offered to teachers. The curriculum explored the 13 guiding principles of Black Lives Matter, among them restorative justice, black families, transgender affirmation, and being unapologetically black.

McGeehan told the Philadelphia Public School Notebook:  “These conversations are so important for our students and our city. Our students in Philadelphia experience an incredible amount of injustice in their school system. I think the biggest takeaway has been an interesting one: that we need to be having more of these conversations and get more of our students engaged in this discussion.”

McGeehan began his work with the School District of Philadelphia as a student teacher at Furness High School before taking a position at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts and, more recently, at the U School. TEP Interim Director Kate Kinney Grossman said, “Charlie has put into practice one of our program’s ideals of teaching for diversity and equity. He is making an impact and focusing on the needs of his students.”

When asked how the TEP program influenced his career, McGeehan said, “My experience at Penn GSE allowed me to be a more reflective educator and focus on what I care about in my teaching. It helped me see how I can be myself and have passion about social justice.”

Other events during the Black Lives Matter Week of Action included film screenings, a town hall meeting, and panel discussions on such topics as supporting immigrant students, effects of mass incarceration on black and brown communities, and LGBTQ youth of color. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins took part in the closing panel discussion on January 28.

McGeehan is among many Penn GSE TEP alumni to go on to work in the School District of Philadelphia. TEP students are guaranteed a full year student teaching assignment in a public or charter school in Philadelphia, and of the last two TEP graduating cohorts, over 75% took jobs in Philadelphia schools.

Read more about McGeehan’s work with the Black Lives Matter Week of Action:

Philadelphia Inquirer
NewsWorks
Philadelphia Tribune
The Philadelphia Public School Notebook