As a gifted curriculum writer, researcher and educator, Jeff Sapp, professor of teacher education, has garnered high respect from his colleagues, his students, and California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) 2016 Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award.
Sapp will carry the University Mace, an honor reserved for highly distinguished faculty members, at the College of Education and College of Extended and International Education Commencement Ceremony at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 21.
The faculty award acknowledges that “research, scholarship and creative activities that are essential components of the mission of CSUDH, and recognizes a professor’s professional activities that provide intellectual stimulation and motivation for student learning.
Sapp, whose research over the last nine years has become specifically focused on gender, queer theory and queer studies in education, noted that the university’s recognition of his work is a testament to its “all-encompassing and steadfast commitment to diversity.”
“At the two former institutions that I taught that [queer theory] research would have never been acknowledged, let alone awarded,” said Sapp. “So it’s not lost on me that it’s awarded here, and it behooves me to think of the decades of professors and staff members who identified as much as activists as they have teachers and professors, and who had strategically written into our policy ‘safer spaces’ so I can stand here and receive this award tonight.”
Sapp is especially interested by the impact of gay and lesbian identity on teaching and learning, and how new gay and lesbian teachers “negotiate their identities” as educators.
“In scholarly contexts [the word queer] has come to represent new concepts, that when applied in the school setting, can have a liberatory and positive influence on the way schools work today,” stated Sapp. “Queer theory goes beyond exploring aspects of gay and lesbian identity and experience; It questions taken-for-granted assumptions about relationships, identity, gender and sexual orientation.”
Sapp’s work has made a national impact on public schooling, and he effortlessly blends and shares his commitment and passion for scholarship with his students.
“Jeff is a man whose actions throughout his professional life are a true reflection of his academic pursuits. He ‘walks the talk,’” wrote James S. Cantor, professor of teacher education at CSUDH, and one of several individuals who wrote a nomination letter for Sapp’s faculty award. “Dr. Sapp is one of our most venerated professors. His research production is top-quality and abundant, and his classes are usually overcrowded with adoring students. Ninety-five to 100 percent of his PTE (perceived teaching effectiveness) evaluations are in the top two rating categories.”
A prolific writer, Sapp has published over 125 pieces of scholarships since his arrival to CSUDH in 2006. An accomplished leader in the field of critical multicultural education, his extensive portfolio encompasses scholarly work in anti-racist/anti-bias interventions, peer-reviewed work in gender studies, and research on issues of diversity and equity in schooling.
Sapp co-edited the book “Cultivating Social Justice Teachers: How Teacher Educators Have Helped Students Overcome Cognitive Bottlenecks,” and his feature article in Teaching Tolerance Magazine–“How School Taught Me I Was Poor–is a personal narrative of growing up in poverty and how school’s lack of awareness of what poverty does to children, increased his sense of being “less-than other students.” His most recent work was co-editing the book “Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality.”
“Confronting injustice in schooling and embracing diversity in its multiple forms is why I like to refer to CSUDH teacher credential candidates as ‘teacher-activists,’” stated Sapp. “Since most of our credential candidates come from the South Bay area and work in LAUSD, issues of diversity and equity are the air we breathe. Much of the work I do in education is confronting injustice and many of the pieces I write demonstrate this commitment to equity.”
Sapp worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project as a senior curriculum specialist/writer, which enabled him to create a curriculum book for the Academy Award Winning Film “One Survivor Remembers” about Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein. The film has been shared at schools across the nation. He has also developed curriculum for The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.
“Jeff is a truly gifted curriculum writer and storyteller. This unique combination of skills can make all the difference for a classroom teacher looking for just the right way to convey hard truths about inequities and social injustice,” wrote Lecia J. Brooks, director of outreach at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. “One project Jeff managed, the teacher’s guide for Oscar-winning ‘Mighty Times: The Children’s March,’ continues to spark hope in the hearts of educators across the country. Here, as in countless other instances, he has found a way for the student to connect with the content in deeply personal and lasting ways.”
Sapp’s teaching has resulted in eight of his students getting published for the first time. He is grateful for the working relationships and friendships he has developed over the years at CSUDH, and enjoys working with junior colleagues to help them “publish and move toward their goals of tenure.”
“I have spent more than a quarter of my career at Cal State Dominguez Hills,” he said. “My colleagues in the College of Education have become like brothers and sister to me.”