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Pennsylvania State University’s Mariah Harmon Named 2024 AACTE James D. Anderson Outstanding Dissertation Award Recipient

AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) today announced Mariah Deans Harmon, Ph.D., assistant professor at the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University, as the recipient of the 2024 AACTE James D. Anderson Outstanding Dissertation Award for, “From Object to Subject: Exploring the Experiences and Developmental Needs of Black Women Pre-Service Teachers.”

This award recognizes excellence in doctoral dissertation research (or its equivalent) that contributes to the knowledge base of educator preparation or teaching and learning with implications for educator preparation. This award is named for James D. Anderson, one of the towering giants in the history of American education. Harmon will be presented with the award at AACTE’s 2024 Annual Meeting Feb. 16–18, in Aurora/Denver, Colo.

“It is my pleasure to present the James D. Anderson Outstanding Dissertation Award this year to Dr. Harmon for her impactful contribution and commitment to advancing teacher education,” said Lynn M. Gangone, AACTE president and CEO. “Her work unraveling the unique journey of Black women pre-service teachers not only enriches our understanding of educator preparation but also paves the way for a more inclusive and culturally responsive future in education.”

In her dissertation, Harmon delves into the experiences of Black women pre-service teachers (BWPTSs) as a distinctive group among teachers of color navigating the landscape of U.S. education. By unveiling the unique developmental trajectory of Black women as educators, the study proposes a potential blueprint for teacher education to invest in cultivating their skills as culturally responsive instructors. The social design study explores the teaching ideologies of four BWPTSs, tracing their conversations in a teacher education space. Employing interaction analysis and a comparative case study design, Harmon’s research documents the experiences and growth of BWPTSs as compassionate educators, providing an empirical basis for reshaping teacher education to decenter whiteness and better support minoritized teachers.

“Dr. Harmon’s analytic approach and findings about Black women pre-service teachers are rich and wholly original,” said Ilana Horn, Ph.D., professor of math education at Vanderbilt University. “She engages with her participants in the inherent tensions involved in being a Black woman and working as a teacher in U.S. schools, with their complex and often treacherous histories of segregation and devaluing Black students and their intellect. By focusing on questions of teacher learning and development, Harmon’s work offers new ways to reimagine teacher education that would holistically support Black women as educators.”

About AACTE 

Established in 1948, AACTE is the leading voice in educator preparation. AACTE’s member institutions and programs prepare the greatest number of professional educators in the United States and its territories, including teachers, counselors, administrators, and college faculty. These professional educators are prepared for careers in PK-12 classrooms, colleges and universities, state and governmental agencies, policy institutes, and non-profit organizations. The AACTE alliance of colleges and universities and educator preparation programs collaborates with members and partners to advance the field of education by prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and engaging in research-based inquiry, advocacy, and innovative practice. Learn more at aacte.org