Teacher Feature: Dr. Makila Meyers

Peterson Fellow Dr. Makila Meyers Photo credit to Ayla Safran, ’15.
Peterson Fellow Dr. Makila Meyers Photo credit to Ayla Safran, ’15.

Reham Mahgoub, ’16

Many changes have accompanied the start of the new semester here at BHSEC. We have welcomed our new full-time Associate Dean of Studies Dr. William Hinrichs and have bid a temporary adieu to our beloved Dr. Mazie, who is on sabbatical. You may have also heard of the new Peterson Fellow joining our faculty, Dr. Makila Meyers. Dr. Meyers has recently joined the BHSEC faculty and is currently teaching a three-credit college elective entitled “A Historical and Literary Approach to Deconstructing Narratives of Racial Passing.”

Dr. Meyers is a native New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx and moved to Brooklyn to attend Brooklyn Technical High School. After graduating from high school, Dr. Meyers obtained her Bachelors from the University of Michigan and her Masters from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is a second-year doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently working toward a doctorate in the department of Curriculum and Teaching. She is highly interested in and has done extensive research into “race and literacy, African American male achievement, and the intersection of excellence and equity in gifted education.” Dr. Meyers’s passion for such research prompted and greatly inspired the proposal of her elective here at BHSEC. Dr. Meyers is also a former New York City classroom teacher who taught seventh grade in the South Bronx and fifth and sixth grade reading and writing at Achievement First Charter School in Brooklyn. She has also worked in several other educational capacities including as a Literacy Specialist for Teach For America.

Many of you may be wondering what the Peterson Fellowship entails for Dr. Meyers. As she explained, “Being a Peterson Fellow, at this point in my academic career, is the perfect opportunity to return to the classroom in a rigorous public education setting and apply the theories on education I have studied over the past year and a half with actual practice. It allows me to access students working in a non-traditional environment and provides a space for me to apply academic instruction to real life (relevant) issues.”

Based on such aspirations and her obvious experience in the teaching field, Dr. Meyers designed the elective that came to be known “A Historical and Literary Approach to Deconstructing Narratives of Racial Passing.” One thing is for sure: designing a college elective is an art that requires skill, experience, knowledge, lots of patience and an open mind willing to get rid of or alter previously-proposed concepts or ideas. In fact, Dr. Meyers actually imagined a different course before settling on this one. She says, “I originally imagined a course on sociology and race, but thought it might be more accessible to look at novels, as I knew there were plenty of examples of passing in African American literature. However, I heard Allyson Hobbs (author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Passing in American Life) on NPR last fall and realized that this was not an either or course. I realized it was imperative to look at the totality of representations of passing in both historical and literary texts, and to ground the course in sociological texts that could facilitate conversations about what race truly is. I think the objective of the course, above any of the content, is to help students become racially literate and completely comfortable talking about race from their own perspectives. I believe that with some agreed upon norms and the right texts, these conversations can be fruitful.” Dr. Meyer’s elective will most likely revolve around discussions of “issues of silence in conversations about race and privilege.”

Dr. Meyers is juggling an extremely full schedule as she balances her course loads, research commitment at Columbia, and teaching here at BHSEC. In addition to all of these commitments, Dr. Meyers also has a fifteen-month old son “and every moment that I am not reading or writing, Messiah [my son] and I are on a play-date, at a story hour, or visiting a baby-friendly spot in the city.” Because of her other commitments, Dr. Meyers is not able to devote her full time to teaching at BHSEC. She can only be found in the English Department on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, leaving early to fulfill her commitment to a 3’o clock class at Columbia. “I’m taking a full course load this semester. This is my last semester of full-time coursework,” she says. “Next fall I move on to writing my prospectus and defending it so that I can move into candidacy and begin collecting the data needed to write my dissertation. This semester I am taking a gifted education seminar which deals directly with the disparities in gifted education [in the New York City school system]. I am also taking a course on New York City politics to help me learn to traverse city and state policies as they relate to education and to broader social services. Finally, I am taking a qualitative research methods course that will aid in conducting research, specifically writing strong policy-based interviews.”

Apparently, Dr. Meyers came across BHSEC “purely by accident.” She was not aware of the existence of the early college programs. Yet, after an introduction to the early college system, Dr. Meyers believes that the BHSEC community is a “model [that] provides an exceptional opportunity for students to access rigorous, accelerated curriculum at a young age.” Additionally, Dr. Meyers is growing fonder of the organization of the BHSEC community and the staff day by day as “faculty and staff have been great in helping to onboard her [me] and my students are nothing short of awesome.” In return we welcome Dr. Makila Meyers and congratulate her on her many accomplishments this far and the ones soon to come!

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