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Professor Has Passion for Global Social Justice

At the core of her being, a passionate fire for global social justice burns brightly and is evident to all that she interacts with. Dr. Diane Ross, a middle childhood educator, teaches in Otterbein’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, preparing teachers to be culturally competent and to engage their students in meaningful learning experiences. In reflecting on her teaching practice, Ross says, “Everything I do links back to preparing teachers to do social justice; helping teachers understand what it means to work with students who are culturally different and help to bridge the cultural divide.”

Dr. Ross began her career as an educator in Northeast Ohio, where she taught middle-school students to be civically minded and culturally aware of diverse groups of people. Her creative teaching methods included involving students in service learning. “I was doing service learning before I knew what it was,” Ross recalled. She knew that when her students saw their work as meaningful, they learned. This happened naturally when doing service learning. “You can do math, language arts and science and meet the learning standards when you are doing service learning.”

Ross’s approach to teaching earned her an award from the Martha Holdings Jennings Foundation. Because of this award, Ross was able to travel to Germany to research the Holocaust. Seeing history up-close was transformational to her approach to teaching. When she returned to teach the following year, Ross and her students felt the effects of her cross-cultural and first-hand experience. “When I taught my unit on the Holocaust, I connected in such a different way to the subject, and my students learned so much more.”

Born out of the realization that first hand experiences are transformative, especially in the development of cultural competencies, Dr. Ross is dedicated to take students out of the classroom to see other places and people. “That is the way we learn, seeing other places and people. It changes our lives. The classroom is a necessity, but so much more teaching and learning can happen outside of the classroom walls.”

Recently, Dr. Ross has been leading groups of Otterbein students to the Naguru Parent’s School in Uganda during the summer months. While in Kampala, Otterbein students work to improve the facilities and resources that the school can offer it students, as well as experience different educational approaches and ways of living. Ross is currently conducting research as to how experiencing developing-
world education impacts the cultural competency of pre-service teachers.

Recently named the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. award for Social Justice, Ross is well known for her glowing passion for global equity, especially in education. Her connection and availability to her students is another defining characteristic. Ross regularly invites her students into her home for tea, to join her in attending a conference, or to travel with her overseas. “My life is for my students. To be a good educator, it must be a lifestyle choice. I choose to be an educator because I love to teach.”