Nidza Marichal, postdoctoral associate at the College of Education, has recently been awarded Dissertation of the year award by the American Educational Research Association Rural Education Special Interest Group (SiG) for her dissertation Teacher Knowledge and Secondary English Learning in a Rural Community.

The Rural Education SiG promotes scholarly conversation about the lives of rural people, places and their schools through research and provides a forum for dissemination of this research. As a part of AERA, they recognize a standout dissertation each year for the potential impact on rural education scholarship, quality of the theorization and overall writing.

Marichal’s dissertation argues that teachers bring four dimensions of personal knowledge and experience to the classroom in a new model she developed. The model demonstrates the connections of teachers’ relational, personal, professional and place-based knowledge that they can apply to better understand their English learning students.

“A teacher that grew up poor or in a rural setting brings that knowledge to her classroom right along with what she learned in school, and once she’s there she needs to learn about the rural place that she works at,” she said. “For example, perhaps their parents work in the agricultural field and they don’t have childcare for younger siblings and sometimes the older students have to stay home.”

Connecting her experience on both sides of language education, having grown up in Puerto Rico as an English learner and teaching Spanish for 20 years in North Florida, Marichal understands the need for effective practices in language education. Marichal will be continuing her work disseminating information for rural education and is working with Maria Coady, professor of ESOL and bilingual education,  and Paula Golombek, clinical professor of linguistics, to edit a book on Teaching, Learning, and Leading in Rural Communities for Multilingual Students.

“I think it’s beautiful that my path has come full circle,” she said. “You have to have that personal connection always.” 

Nidza Marichal