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This interview with Jennifer Wai-Lan Strodl was conducted on July 11, 2022 remotely via Zoom. Jennifer is a radical educator based in the Hudson Valley. She was the director of the Libreri School in Hudson, New York, an independent multi-age one room schoolhouse, which she was forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this interview with Diana Limbach Lempel, Jennifer describes her life after disbanding the Liberi School, which she founded in 2015 and then re-imaged as a remote learning school for a year in 2021. Jennifer now works at Bard College and as a consultant for/with a new higher education project that provides free instruction for queer, black, and brown adult learners. She explains in the interview how she feels continuity between this work and her previous work with children, in that she is aligning her education work with her values, "breaking out of conventional and potentially repressive ways of teaching." Early in the interview, she expresses regret and frustration at society for not having focused more intensively (or successfully) on educational reform, when the disruption of the pandemic made "everyone question education." Later, she reflects that there are so many things that are so difficult for schools, teachers, families and children, that "we are still in triage but it's not necessarily being acknowledged." She expresses hope that youth, schools, and communities will be able to find space for the healing work needed to move out of that triage phase, including listening to young people about their experiences. Jennifer also discusses the challenges of doing remote learning with young people, causing her to reflect on the importance of trust and the somatic dimensions of teaching. At the end of the interview she thanks the Education Narratives Project for being a source of hope and connection, as well as a space for educators to share hope and ideas. Her final words were for people who are considering starting their own schools: "Do it, it's really needed."
Diana Lempel is a mother of two young boys and a descendant of 20th century Italian immigrants, Mayflower passengers, and at least one professional medium. Her world-making combines women’s and family history with fiction and performance, and a strong attention to place, community, magic, and labor. Diana has served as the Mass Humanities Scholar in Residence for the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival, the Doing History Curator at the Cambridge Historical Society, and the Researcher in Residence at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park’s exhibition “Visionary New England.” She received a MUP in Urban Planning + Design and an MA in Landscape Studies from Harvard University.
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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.