Graduate of Teacher Education Program Named Rhodes Scholar
Genevieve Quist (Class of ’06, Teaching Credential in Multiple Subjects) was named a 2007 Rhodes Scholar, one of 32 individuals in the United States chosen for this international honor, based on her high academic achievement, personal integrity, and leadership potential. Quist will study at Oxford University in England this October, pursuing a Master of Philosophy degree in Comparative Social Policy.
Quist, a 6th grade English and social studies teacher at Charles Drew Middle School in South Los Angeles, began her teaching career through Teach For America. The national organization attracts outstanding recent graduates from all disciplines and provides the opportunity to spend two years teaching in urban and rural public schools. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, she worked on several research studies on poverty and its psychosocial and environmental consequences for children, and was moved by the conditions that she observed.
“Poverty cannot be truly reduced by only focusing on one aspect of it,” she says. “Policy and education are key factors, and improvements in these areas must work in conjunction with other areas, including housing and health care.”
Quist cites measures such as welfare reform as helpful to families in some ways, while harmful in others.
“Key programs relating to low-income kids, such as Medicaid and Food Stamps, have not been funded adequately to meet the needs of our population,” she notes. “Parents must work in order to receive benefits, but are often not given appropriate job training or the education necessary to find and keep decent jobs. The minimum wage in the United States is equivalent to a poverty wage, and little effort is made to educate or mobilize the many parents who work for these wages.”
She also points out that the funding of public schools through property taxes “continues to exacerbate the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students,” and that programs such as No Child Left Behind and Head Start are not adequately funded. She hopes to contribute to the implementation of comprehensive measures to address poverty by facilitating and encouraging increased civic action and self-advocacy in low-income communities.
“This might require a major shift in political and social consciousness, but I'm happy to try and help bring that about,” she says.
Quist, who participated in a 12-month credential program, says she benefited most from assistant professor of teacher education Jeff Miller’s course on educational psychology and associate professor of teacher education James Cantor's courses involving the incorporation of art and music into the curriculum.
“These classes helped me understand education in a more holistic sense,” she points out.
Putting what she learned in Cantor’s classes to use, Quist underscores the importance of a “well-rounded education.”
“High quality education challenges kids to tap into their talents and potential in a variety of contexts,” she says. “It helps mold complete human beings, capable of using their imaginations and exercising critical thinking skills in a variety of situations. Teaching to only one part of a child's performance does not allow cultivation of all the other valuable parts of that child's mind and heart.”
As a teacher in the LAUSD, Quist herself makes efforts to supplement what she brings to her students in the classroom with several volunteer activities, including after-school tutoring, taking students snowboarding during their off-track, and involvement in an art enrichment program for students at Drew and Angel’s Gate Academy, a program for at-risk girls.
“Kids living in low-income neighborhoods and attending low-income schools do not typically have the same access to the types of enrichment programs offered to suburban kids,” she says. “These programs give me the opportunity to interact with kids outside a traditional school setting. Closer relationships with the kids benefits both them and me, and creates a better classroom environment after those extracurricular activities are over.”
Quist points out that “safe, creative outlets for expression” are almost non-existent in many urban school systems due to the lack of music and art programs.
“Schools should help encourage kids to think critically and be creative,” she states. “Extracurricular programs are pivotal in this process because they help provide kids with new experiences and opportunities to learn.”
- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore