Scholarship of Teaching

Scholarship of Prevention


I am a courageous compassionate woman concerned about the general disconnection within and between ourselves, the natural world and each other.  I value relationships, creative expression, health and social justice. Culture matters to me. I belong to a global community in dignity and human rights. My service is education ~ my work, to facilitate peace through innovative teaching methods that bring the whole body into the classroom. My calling is movement ~ the goal, to unleash the transformative power of expressive arts in Public Health.

During the 08-09 academic year, I conducted sabbatical research titled: Teaching Innovation in Public Health. To maximize the time and immerse myself in my research I decided to conduct my study “through the body,” using autoethnography as my research method. Autoethnography is a qualitative method that makes explicit the researcher’s subjective experience. Unlike other traditional methods, in autoethnography, the researcher’s emotions, observations and thoughts are used as tools to understand the context studied. I was a participant at three sites: UC Berkeley School of Public Health, The Yoga Room and The Tamalpa Institute. At UCB I audited a semester long course on “Global Health and the Environment;” at the Yoga Room I enrolled in their “Advanced Studies Teacher Training Program” and at Tamalpa I studied “Expressive Arts and Somatic Movement Education.” My study also took me abroad to Havana, Cuba where I presented preliminary research findings at a conference on Teaching Health Equity and to Pune, India where I met yoga teachers and other somatic movement educators to exchange ideas about how to “bring the body in the classroom.”

Tamalpa is rooted in the work of Anna Halprin, who is among the first pioneers in the contemporary Western world to reframe dance from a performative activity to a healing art. The training program is lead by Daria Halprin author of The Expressive Body in Life, Art and Therapy and contributing author to the Foundations of Expressive Arts Therapy Journal. Tamalpa’s pedagogy infuses movement with drawing and creative writing to access old known cross-cultural understandings of health and health care systems with new innovative ways of relating to each other that can increase community participation, personal transformation and social action. The study site, faculty and students provided me with a participatory learning environment that integrated theory and practice, honored diversity, and fostered embodied leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills (with a special emphasis on the non-verbal).

Study Aims & Research Questions
The purpose of this inquiry was to study embodied teaching in Public Health. Further, I intended to reflect on how my own experiences as a learner and how they could inform classroom teaching. The sites were chosen based on growing trends in the field of public health towards a global vision grounded in contemporary environmental issues, interest in expressive arts and somatic movement (cite). Furthermore, as a registered yoga teacher since 2005 I have a personal interest and first hand experience with the application of yoga on teaching personal health. Long range goals of this project are to apply lessons learned in my own classroom and with student input, systematically develop a teacher training curriculum for other colleagues training the Public Health workforce.

The primary research questions guiding my sabbatical study were:

1. What sort of teaching encourages effective learning about health?

2. In what ways does group work aid individual learning, and in what ways does individual learning aid group work?

3. How does movement-based creative expression impact student learning?

For me teaching and research are one and the same channel to gain personal understanding, achieve empowerment and build community capacity.  With a mix of synchronicity and purposeful coincidence I returned to San Francisco State University, the very institution that granted me two bachelor degrees more than 20 years ago, one in La Raza Studies the other in Spanish.  My background in Primary Prevention, Global Health, Non-violence, Creative Expression and Youth Empowerment enabled me to co-develop a teaching praxis called Pedagogy of Collegiality. This teaching approach is rooted in critical education and contemporary feminist theory. I just completed co-editing the text Prevention is Primary: Strategies for Community Wellbeing. Currently I am working with Elizabeth Soep on the book Drop That Knowledge: Youth Radio, Learning and Media Culture.

San Francisco State University has been an oasis of creativity for me.  I understood this from the first day working for the Department of Health Education. As a seasoned teacher I could rely on careful course preparation and lecture notes; however, it was impossible to pretend to teach as intended given the multicultural character of the classroom.  Cultures as represented with diversity of age – some students still in their teens and others who are my elders’ elders.  Male and female students speaking more than one language with ancestors from all other the world; many first and second generation students and others used to being called Americans with and without race/ethnicity consciousness.  At SFSU there is diversity of income, from students who were homeless to others whose parents pay their tuition. We have sexual diversity and openness around sexual orientation, sexual preference and sexuality in general.  My teaching style connects with the multicultures in the classroom – students from all walks of life, many who may be experiencing the very health disparities described in the scientific health literature. My teaching philosophy stems from five basic principles: empowerment through community involvement, cultural humility, asset-based education, unlearning and health in motion.




Empowerment through Community Involvement

The process of gaining power with oneself and one's community to produce change.  Developing understanding of root causes of problems.  Analyze and address underlying power imbalance.

Learning starts where the people are.  Problem-solving and critical thinking tools.  Offer opportunities that maximize participation in every aspect of the educational process to create a collective sense of learning.


Cultural Humility

A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, to redress power imbalances, develop and maintain mutually respectful dynamic partnerships based on mutual trust.

Experiential classroom exercises to identify value systems.  Create consensus, develop original thought and develop personal voice. The ability to examine cultural pride humility as tools for health promotion and social justice.



Identify student’s strengths and develop lesson plans that build on them. Teach students that all groups have skills & knowledge of their members as assets.

Community mapping exercise teaches interviewing skills and participant observation.  Teamwork, dialogue, reflection & action.  Linking assignments to one another so that student keeps improving.



Questioning assumptions, stereotypes, and hegemony. Students become conscious of the tendency towards prejudice as a reflection of our social context & the time/place we live in and come from.

Writing as a teaching pedagogy removes barriers to communication such as the need to control and dominate conversations.  Through writing we can ask ourselves: 
What do I believe in, and Why?

Health in Motion

Movement is the language of the body. The body is ignored in even the most progressive classrooms.  Health inequities and social determinants literature compartmentalizes the mind/body/spirit nexus.

The holistic body is used to illuminate the cultural, collective, political body.  Weekly health promotion lectures are complimented with the practice of kinesthetic awareness through embodied learning, dance & yoga.