Olshefski, C. (2019, December). Negotiating Pedagogical and Religious Identities: A Qualitative Case Study. Paper submitted for Literacy Research Association 69th Annual Conference: Literacy Research: Illuminating the Future. Tampa, Florida.
This qualitative case study of one white Evangelical English Language Arts (ELA) teacher in a Cristo Rey Catholic school aims to understand how her religious identity influences and is influenced by her teacher identity. Research on teacher identity has been largely based on the premise that, because of the personal investment required in teaching, teachers’ personal identities influence their work which in turn influences students’ learning experiences (Day et al., 2006, p. 603). The interrelationship between the personal and professional is perhaps most emphasized in ELA (Alsup, 2006; Jacobs, 2014), which centers the role of personal experiences in disciplinary learning (NCTE/IRA, 1996, standard 3). Although educators and researchers are often challenged to reflect on the way their work is shaped by their cultural ‘positionalities’ (Milner, 2007) the relationship between religious faith and teacher identities has received less attention in educational research than race, gender and/or social class (White, 2009). Even with “the growing realization of the important role spirituality plays in education” (Hartwick, 2012, p. 663) as well as recent studies on religion’s influence on students’ literacy learning (e.g., Juzwik, 2014; LeBlanc, 2015; Rackley, 2010; Skerret, 2014), interest in religious faith’s role in ELA teacher identity is new (e.g., Juzwik & McKenzie, 2015) and largely under-theorized. This study contributes to the small but growing field of literacy research on the relationship between religion and literacy (Davila, 2015; Juzwik, 2014; Skerret, 2014) by calling for future research to consider the ways teaching and personal faith identities iteratively shape each other.