PFTF alumna Bernadette Best-Green

A Quest for Scholarly Answers

PFTF scholar grows as a leader in pursuit of answers for improving K-12 education

BernNadette Best-Green's, Ph.D. '20 drive to be a scholar comes from a desire to help K-12 teachers and students.

"Education is the opportunity for everyone to have success and transform your situation,” said Best-Green, who is now an associate professor of education at San Joaquin Delta College. "In my own experience, education was a transformative experience and so I wanted to make sure others have that opportunity. It’s why I’m very much connected to trying to help create teachers who are going to go back into communities and serve whatever students come through their door.”

Prior to studying at UC Davis, Best-Green worked as a teacher, vice principal, summer school principal, and project director at various Northern California schools. Through her time in the classroom and as an administrator, Best-Green observed the issues plaguing historically underrepresented college students and knew, to fix them, it would “required more than having teachers who care and have good intentions.”

"The problems we are facing are greater than that!" said Best-Green who earned the 2020-21 Outstanding New Faculty Award from the San Joaquin Delta College Academic Senate. "I realized the knowledge base that I was yearning for and wanting to get in front of my teachers…that was a scholarly question.”

Educator driven to find scholarly answers

Best-Green enrolled in the doctoral program at the UC Davis School of Education where she says, the scholarly community in their graduate group provided her with a challenging, yet capacity-building, blend of mentorship and research engagement. She also grew as an innovative and effective instructor of undergraduates and graduate students, and honed her research skills. The experience enabled her to generate new knowledge she was seeking and knew was needed by K-12 schools and teachers who serve diverse youth.

Best-Green was the principal investigator of a research study called “Thriving While Black” which sought to understand what Black collegians described as the “most helpful” and “most harmful” characteristics of their K-12 schools and teachers. She has presented findings from this research at several national education research conferences and plans to pursue publication opportunities to share this scholarship more widely.

PFTF: An empowering experience

As she began to delve deeper into her work and teach graduate-level education courses, Best-Green became engrossed by a new burning question that motivated her to pursue a competitive PFTF fellowship.

“I knew that the project I was cooking was what I needed; but, also from my time on campus, I knew there were a lot of people who would also benefit from my project,” she said.

Best-Green’s project was focused on preparing graduate students, recent graduates, and post-doctoral scholars as they sought faculty appointments. Specifically, she wanted to show advanced doctoral students and recent graduates how to apply their doctoral work to meet the needs of a prospective, university employer. 

Best-Green was accepted into PFTF and, as a fellow of the competitive program, she conducted extensive research on best practices then developed a curriculum and executed a workshop focused on helping advanced doctoral students and recent graduates through the process of developing courses that both highlighted their interests and expertise and also fulfilled the needs of the academic department in which they were seeking employment. (Learn more about Best-Green’s PFTF project here.)

The results of this practical knowledge were invaluable for participants. Those who took Best-Green’s PFTF workshop and followed her guidebook’s curriculum all state they have successfully applied the skills acquired and resources generated during their academic employment pursuits. Executing the project was a worthwhile experience for Best-Green as well.

“To go through the process of doing my project and applying it…and have the cohort of students go through the process now apply it in their own teaching…” she said, “that’s so empowering!”

Increasing leadership capacity

Best-Green regards her successful PFTF project as one of several ways that the fellowship program bolstered her professional development. According to Best-Green, PFTF helps fellows increase their leadership capacity and “become more engaged problem solvers” because it required fellows to design and execute projects, facilitate workshops, and recruit leading scholars for the fellowship’s speaker series.

“This fellowship really positions the fellows to do the work,” she said. “Those experiences are useful because you can look back and be proud of what you’ve done!”

Best-Green credits her PFTF experience for giving her the confidence to take on a new, complex project in addition to her normal teaching duties during her first year in a tenure-track position at San Joaquin Delta College. When she was invited to execute a project involving the development of several undergraduate education courses designed for aspiring pre-service teachers, Best-Green drew directly from the skillset she acquired through the implementation of her PFTF project.

“I am so grateful for Professors for the Future. I had a great Ph.D. experience before the fellowship, but I know for a fact that the success I’m experiencing in my current job — my sense of what I can do — was bolstered so much by the program,” she said. “My experience was very empowering and made me see myself differently. And seeing people be empowered because of my work, that’s empowering too!”

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