Fall 2011 / Spring 2012

Photo: Danielle Aquiline (MFA '06)
Photo: Danielle Aquiline (MFA '06)

“What I want my students to do, as either current or future teachers, is to look at kids more expansively,” Dr. Rozansky says. "I want them to look for what kids do have—to look at their strengths as human beings and to build on those.”

Visions of a Critical Pedagogist

With more than three decades of professional experience, Dr. Carol Lloyd Rozansky brings new leadership to the Education Department.

Before she became Professor of Education at University of Nebraska at Omaha, before she helped create a nonprofit organization that promotes critical thinking and social justice, and before she developed a teaching philosophy that’s well aligned with our Education Department’s commitment to urban education, Dr. Carol Lloyd Rozansky would lie awake at night and have visions of becoming a teacher.

“When I was little and supposed to be falling asleep,” she recalls, “I would imagine myself as a teacher and create these scenarios in my head where I was teaching elementary school kids. Looking back on that now, teaching was something I always imagined myself doing.”

In many ways, her visions were prophetic. But lying in her bed all those years ago, she probably couldn’t have imagined that her visions would lead to an ambitious, successful, well-rounded career in the field of education: teacher, professor, scholar, PreK-12 literacy expert, researcher, reading specialist, critical pedagogist—and now, as of summer 2011, Chair of the Education Department in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Columbia.

“Columbia College, with its focus on the arts, encourages a context that promotes cross-boundary explorations,” says Dr. Rozansky, whose daughter, Meagan Lloyd, is a graduate of the college’s undergraduate Photography program. “I am excited about the existence and potential of cross-disciplinary dialogues. Concurrently, Columbia College is in and a part of the urban landscape. This provides a wonderful opportunity for our developing teachers.”

In the mid 1970s, shortly after she earned a BA in Biological Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Rozansky began her career teaching science and mathematics to junior high students. “I loved science because it explained so much of the world,” she says. “Scientists often think creatively. How else could they see things in new ways and then solve problems?” While teaching junior high-level students, Dr. Rozansky earned an MA in Education (Reading) from California Polytechnic State University and began her work as a high school reading specialist. A PhD in Reading from the University of Arizona, Tucson, followed.

As Dr. Rozansky delved into her scholarship and honed her educational philosophy, she expanded the scope of her engagement with literacy development and became involved with organizations that focused on mathematics and science literacy, learning, and achievement. At a national reading conference, a chance meeting with Peter McLaren, a leading scholar in the field of critical pedagogy, changed the ways in which she approached teaching. The two talked in detail about how schools often fail to provide opportunities for every student to succeed. “I had an epiphany,” she says. “He was articulating things happening in schools that were troubling to me but that I had yet to put into words.”

From then on, Dr. Rozansky’s curricula, scholarship, and teaching methods became significantly influenced by critical pedagogy, social justice, and a personal view that these issues and education are “interconnected.” She explains: “Schools typically segment learning, and that’s a shame, because, in reality, those domains of knowledge are interconnected.”

Dr. Rozansky also helped develop Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO), an organization that promotes critical thinking and social justice in oppressive social systems. PTO is based on the liberatory pedagogy of Paulo Freire—generally considered the first critical pedagogist—as well as the liberatory theatre of Augusto Boal. “The Theatre of the Oppressed is a way to concretely examine oppression through theatre and to look for possible solutions,” she says. “I see it as a potentially powerful way for teachers to look at themselves, because they often feel oppressed in that there are too many obstacles to do the right things for their kids. But I also see it as a way for students to explore issues of social justice.” PTO is now a nonprofit organization, and its annual conference features the work of liberatory educators, activists, artists, and community organizers.

In addition to her work with PTO, Dr. Rozansky has authored or co-authored more than thirty published papers, presented at more than eighty conferences, and held more than a dozen leadership roles while in her previous position as Professor of Education at University of Nebraska at Omaha, including co-chairing, for the last four years, the Human Resources Committee of the African American Achievement Council for Omaha public schools. She has also played important and influential roles in program development at the university level, and she has developed numerous graduate and undergraduate courses, including “Politics of Literacy Education,” “Contemporary Issues in Urban Education,” and “Critical Pedagogy: Teaching for Social Justice.”

“What I want my students to do, as either current or future teachers, is to look at kids more expansively,” Dr. Rozansky says. “I don’t want them to look for deficits and what their students don’t have, which is how our system is typically organized in education. I want them to look for what kids do have—to look at their strengths as human beings and to build on those.”

As the new Chair of the Education Department, Dr. Rozansky says she intends to focus her efforts on many fronts. Among other roles, responsibilities, and ideas, she would like to work with other departments at the college to create further interdisciplinary opportunities for students; she hopes to explore how new advances in technology and media can benefit the department; she intends to find new ways to further reach college-bound high school students and adults who are looking to change careers; and she wants to continue the work of her predecessor, Dr. Ava Belisle-Chatterjee, in connecting the Education Department with the Chicago community—specifically, to high school principals and superintendents. “We’re developing people to be teachers, so to me there has to be a back and forth between us and the community [to address its needs],” Dr. Rozansky says.

But one of the most important things on her agenda as the new Chair, she says, is to listen to, and address the needs of, her department’s various constituents—its faculty, staff, students, the Chicago community, and the various internal and external organizations with which the department works.

Having devoted her professional life to education and scholarship, Dr. Rozansky would probably agree she’s come a long way from her elementary school days, lying awake at night and having visions of becoming a teacher; nowadays, her visions are centered on how best to move the Education Department forward. But those visions of where to lead the department, she says, shouldn’t be hers alone. “To me, it’s not my vision,” she says. “It’s our vision.”