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Faculty leader Lisa George builds equity and inclusion into remote learning

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TLC coordinator Lisa George has guided her fellow faculty members through teaching in the pandemic

TLC coordinator Lisa George has guided her fellow faculty members through teaching in the pandemic.

The Teaching Learning Centers (TLCs) at Portland Community College serve a myriad of purposes. They offer professional development opportunities,  facilitate personal growth among faculty and staff, provide a communal space in which employees can cultivate a sense of belonging, and allow them to find ways to better express institutional and personal values.

When PCC’s physical facilities were shuttered and instruction migrated to virtual platforms due to the pandemic, the role of the TLCs changed dramatically. Online and remote instruction brings its own slate of challenges with regard to teaching efficacy, engaging with students and critical issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lisa George, head of the Cascade Campus TLC and the campus’ community-based learning faculty coordinator, has met these challenges head-on by making available to her colleagues a wide range of readings, workshops, activities and other resources designed to help them be better educators during this unprecedented time. She also has been helping them learn to better foster an equitable online learning environment.

What are the biggest challenges for PCC instructors in terms of fostering equity and inclusivity during this time of online and remote learning?

Lisa George: When the college closure happened, a lot of us worked nonstop over spring break and beyond in order to bring our classes to the virtual setting. For some faculty, it brought the tribulations of first-year teaching back all over again, with the addition of all the tribulations that unfamiliar technology can bring. The challenge is … when people are working to implement equitable, inclusive and anti-racist practices: if we don’t consciously, constantly, and conspicuously keep pouring energy into the momentum to change things, they fall back into their previous state. This is extra challenging when folks are committed to equitable practices and at the same time are exhausted and overwhelmed. We can address this head on by repeatedly reminding ourselves, and each other, to bring our focus back to equitable practices.

Virtual Admissions

To sign-up for one-on-one appointments, learn what steps to take, access information sessions and watch video tutorials, visit PCC’s Virtual Admission’s page. Students will get guidance, support, class registration and pathways to degree completion. In addition, current students can use the Virtual Help tab once they’ve logged in to access further support.

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What are you hearing from students with regard to the particular challenges and obstacles they’re facing in this new educational reality?

George: I did a survey of my students this term and found that about 10% of the folks who were taking my classes only had the tech to access their course material by phone. Internet bandwidth for accessing online meetings is an additional challenge for people who are sharing wifi access with family members who are also doing online schooling or work. My students are also sharing that they need to support the kids in their households who are attending school online. It requires time and also emotional and physical energy. 

Along with job loss brought on by the pandemic, there’s also the new ways that student schedules are fluctuating in response to shifting or declining employment opportunities and the need to accept whatever work hours that are available. And all of this is occurring as the pandemic exponentially increases existing structural and interpersonal environments of inequality.

Students in my classes are grateful that I’ve redesigned my due date policy. If a student turns in work a few days after a deadline, it doesn’t mean they learned the material any less. It just means they didn’t get to do something by a particular date. So I use due dates as term checkpoints instead of something that causes a grade penalty if they’re missed. 

What lessons do you think the college can carry forward into a post-pandemic world, and do you think our overall educational environment can be improved?

George: We can innovate! We were able to keep so many classes going during remote operations because of the creativity, commitment, passion and teamwork of the folks who work at PCC. Any past hesitation we had about making changes in order to best serve our students can be put aside. We now know we have the ability to make change in order to continuously improve equity, access and engagement.

You’re a bicycle aficionado. Have you kept up with your cycling since the lockdown began, and if so, has it been a helpful coping mechanism for you?

George: I ride at least six days a week. When it’s bad weather I use a virtual cycling app. I’ve hooked up an old racing bike to a machine that receives my pedal power reading and sends it to my computer. The app then uses that info to create an avatar and places it in a virtual environment where I can ride with my friends from Portland and all over the world. It’s pretty fun. It’s not quite as fun as riding outside, but with some good tunes or a podcast playing, it does the trick.

What other methods have you used to maintain your mental and spiritual well-being during quarantine?

George: I’ve been watching Kim’s Convenience on Netflix, and I’m also really enjoying the current season of Star Trek Discovery. I’ve been working on a book, an Arab-American auto-ethnographic exploration of love and cultural survival. And I also enjoy hiking up hills in the Columbia River Gorge whenever I can. 

Thanks Lisa!

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Comments

There are 16 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Max Macias 4 months ago

Lisa represents the best of PCC!

#Teaching #Integrity #Courageous #Caring

x by Laura Horani 4 months ago

I count myself lucky to have Lisa as a colleague and be able to work with, collaborate with, and learn from her. I know I am not alone! PCC is a far better place because of generous and creative colleagues like Lisa George.

x by Greg Gerstner 4 months ago

As a novice CBL Faculty Coordinator, Lisa’s insights and guidance have been immensely helpful and enlightening over the past year. I appreciate Lisa’s wisdom and commitment to students and faculty, alike, at PCC.

x by Shirlee Geiger 4 months ago

I was lucky enough to share an office with Lisa when she first started at PCC. Her enthusiasm for education — done right!! — and her personal warmth and compassion made coming to campus a joy. I think it is a tragedy that PCC could not find a stable, secure, adequately paid position for her within our institution, given the incredible contributions she has made over her 16 years to help so very many of us be better educators. We will miss your wisdom, kindness, and SMARTS at PCC, Lisa!

x by Michele Marden 4 months ago

I have learned so much from Lisa when I was co-TLC coordinator at SY (and she TLC at CA) — and since. Her student-focused approach to teaching and her tireless dedication to TLC work has been a gift to PCC. I will SO miss her in this role – this is yet another tragic PCC loss.

Lisa: I wish you the best in all things. I hope to continue teaching with you (and learning from you) at PCC in the years to come.

x by Sylvia Helen Gray 4 months ago

Lisa – Thank you for all your contributions toward making PCC a better place for students and for faculty. You remind us continually, in the most positive way, of what we are striving for. Your warmth and genuine caring always shine through. I agree with Shirlee – – what a travesty that someone of your caliber and track record could not achieve a full-time job at PCC. It’s not you – it’s the system.

x by Jane Ellis 4 months ago

I am so happy for you and I am deeply sad for PCC Cascade. For years you have had to cobble together various positions within PCC. The college will miss the “deposits” you have made to our organization.

Lisa you are “worthy”. and I hope that Mt Hood utilizes all that who you are and offer. You are a motivating YES person in all you do.
With much love and respect,
Jane

x by Diedre Cain 4 months ago

Lisa, You have been a true asset to the college, faculty members and students. It has been both a personal and professional joy for me to see you in action – such as when you have presented at conferences and workshops. PCC has been a better place with you in it, and I know you will shine at Mt. Hood as well. Continue to take good care of yourself and the world, and know that you will be deeply missed.

x by Ralf Youtz 4 months ago

Thank you, Lisa, for your work for PCC students and staff!

Your leadership, creativity, and care have given us tools to help make PCC a more just, more humane learning community.

MHCC is incredibly lucky to welcome you to their community. At PCC, we’re lucky our students will still have opportunities to learn with you!

x by Flo Leibowitz 4 months ago

Hi from Beaver-ville (Corvallis)— very proud to have friend and colleague Lisa’s story here. Thank you for doing such important work and leading by example!

x by Hannah Cherry 4 months ago

Thank you Abe for writing this piece highlighting Lisa’s work here at PCC. It is heartbreaking that she will be leaving because PCC failed to offer her opportunities for professional growth that also provided job stability.

Lisa has been instrumental to the growth and evolution of the community-based learning program here at PCC. In their role as the CBL Faculty Professional Development Curriculum Coordinator (in addition to CBL Faculty Coordinator for Cascade), Lisa grounded the philosophy and implementation of our continuum in equity, inclusion, and critical theories. Lisa patiently guided many uncomfortable and difficult conversation, but always pushed us to think critically about our roles as educators and the impact on students and community. I am so grateful to have Lisa as a colleague, mentor, collaborator, co-conspirator, and know they will always be a member of our community of practice.

x by Tanya Mead 4 months ago

I am so happy to see all these well-deserved testimonies to Lisa’s many contributions to PCC. Lisa has always shown up with positivity for the work, no matter how challenging and touching many lives through her work with faculty and administration, AND her work directly with students. She has the great gift of making people feel like they just said something really smart or did something clever- which just helps make the wheels go round on a daily basis. She has always kept race and equity issues front and center, in every dialogue and especially for faculty development. She has worn many hats at this institution and despite all the amazing work was never rewarded with a full-time position. PCC

x by Tanya Mead 4 months ago

I am so happy to see all these well-deserved testimonies to Lisa’s many contributions to PCC. Lisa always showed up with positivity for the work, and had the knack of making people feel like they had had just said the smartest thing or done something amazing. She wore many hats at PCC, touching lives across the district (students and staff). She always kept equity issues front and center, so that PCC as an institution could work towards becoming a better one. One of the things that impressed me about Lisa’s training were the smart questions and the significant space she provided for participants to engage. Thank you Lisa for all you did for the Education program! You will be missed!

x by Phyllis Petteys 4 months ago

I am so grateful to Lisa and all the work she has done around equity, and am so sorry to hear from the comments that she is leaving PCC. I love Lisa’s comments in this article–pointing out the struggles of our students with technology, busy lives, and the need for flexibility. Lisa has been there since I’ve been at PCC–with creative ways to bring information to students, faculty and staff around social justice and systems of oppression. Thank you Lisa!

x by Quang Le 3 months ago

Lisa Geogre is the best and very friendly.

x by Stefano 2 months ago

Thank you, Lisa! It’s sad that so many outstanding people have left and continue to leave PCC.

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