Edelman Fellow Spotlight: Denisha Campbell, M.S., CCC-SLP

Edelman Fellow and Ph.D. student Denisha Campbell partnered with the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center to facilitate an innovative workshop focused on teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students

11/15/2021

During her tenure as a speech-language pathologist for Duval County Public Schools, Denisha Campbell, M.S., CCC-SLP was selected for the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship for the JPEF Teacher Leadership Initiative.

As part of her fellowship, she traveled to Puerto Rico and spent three weeks learning Spanish and immersing herself in the culture of a geographic area where English is not the dominant language.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Ms. Campbell is a native speaker of English, African American English dialect, and is an emerging bilingual in Spanish. 

Her experience working in public school systems across different states is what inspired her to become an educator. She noticed trends in disparities for Black and Brown students. 

"I had certain goals for my students' achievement," Ms. Campbell said. "But, I was limited in my ability to assist them due to some of the cultural and linguistic differences."

She leaned into learning about how students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were continually identified as "at-risk" and "low-performing." 

"So, I decided to dedicate my time to identifying better ways to support them," she said. 

Now, she's pursuing her Ph.D. at Florida State University. We caught up with her recently at an innovative workshop she facilitated in partnership with Mayo Clinic to learn about the great work she is doing for culturally and linguistically diverse students.  

Tell me about the project you submitted in your application for the Edelman Fellowship. 

The project submitted for the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Award essentially involved me spending three weeks in Puerto Rico to continue to learn Spanish and continuously immerse myself in a culture and area where English was not the dominant language spoken.

During my time there, I documented my experience and the things I learned about the culture. I then utilized this information to create a professional development experience for educators in DCPS schools to support their knowledge and understanding of working with multilingual and culturally diverse learners.

This project felt necessary as I recalled an experience when I was doing therapy with a student from Costa Rica. We were working on vocabulary and I asked him to name things that he needed for breakfast. I was expecting a response like "toaster" or "eggs," but when he told me "rice and beans," I assumed he didn't have a concept for what breakfast was.

It wasn't until I visited Costa Rica and realized that a popular breakfast dish was gallo pinto (a mix of rice and beans) that it wasn't my student who didn't have a concept of breakfast, it was I who didn't have a concept for his culture.

I then saw the correlation between the growing number of Latinx students within my school and the number of teachers who were confused as to how to support their students. Many simply assumed their behavior was a lack of knowledge or laziness. I knew this wasn't the case, so I sought to undergo an experience where I could continue to help myself and others build an understanding for our culturally and linguistically diverse students in hopes that it would improve our ability to educate and improve student outcomes. 

Tell me what your experience has been like as an Edelman Fellow and how your work has grown/progressed since you won the Edelman Fellowship? 

My experience as an Edelman Fellow has been simply phenomenal! The team has been truly supportive despite life transitions and the advent of Covid-19. I was originally set to leave for Puerto Rico in 2020, but when the pandemic delayed those travel plans, the team made sure to remain in contact so that the trip would be possible, especially following the approval of vaccinations.

By the summer of 2021, I was able to board the plane and experience life in Puerto Rico. They made sure I felt comfortable during my time and presented me with resources, such as a partnership with the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center which took my original idea of a professional development activity and cultivated it into an experience that far exceeded my expectations. From all of this, I've been able to build my networks, complete what I set out to do, and I now have a better idea of how I want my professional career to aid in the fight against achievement gaps. 

Can you give me an overview of the innovative workshop you conducted with Mayo Clinic?

The workshop with Mayo Clinic was built in partnership with two of the employees at the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center, Amy Lannen and Michelle Glanert-Kempf.

The idea was to provide an experiential learning experience for all of the participants. Though they weren't able to board the plane with me, I wanted them to learn and gain the same insights I had during my three weeks in Puerto Rico.

I worked in collaboration with Mayo Clinic to create three different simulations utilizing their professional actors, role plays, and debrief periods with three main goals in mind:

  • Establishing empathy for multilingual learner
  • Learning strategies to support those learners
  • Providing an opportunity to implement those strategies

The goal was to change what our educators are doing, or suggest that the hard work they've put in is wrong or not enough; instead, we wanted to create an experience where our educators could reflect and have tools to build on the incredible things they are already doing.

Building cultural competency is all about addressing blind spots. I believe we were able to do that with the help of the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center. The participants all shared how much the experience truly helped them, and I am hopeful that we will be able to continue with these partnerships in the future.    

What results have you seen for students because of your work?

As a result of this work, I've seen the power of building partnerships for a collective purpose. I've seen how far I've been able to push myself and grow professionally given the right supports and resources. I've seen how my actions can create a domino effect and positively impact others.

I hope to see that in the future this domino effect will continue with the participants, their administration, and fellow staff, and hopefully, it will trickle down to the students, because that's who we hope to impact at the end of the day! 

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87%

of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2018-2019.