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2021 Bennion Teachers' Workshop - Presenters


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Marisela Martinez-Cola

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola (Workshop Director & Primary Facilitator)

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola will lead the 2021 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop. With previous experience as a Director of Multicultural Affairs and a renowned sociology professor, Dr. Martinez-Cola is uniquely qualified to help facilitate brave conversations about difficult topics. As a sociologist, Dr. Martinez-Cola’s research focuses on the critical comparative study of race, class, and gender as it relates to culture, social movements, and comparative/historical sociology. Her current book project is entitled, The Bricks Before Brown, and is a comparative historical case study of the construction of race, class, and gender in Mexican American, Chinese American, and Native American school desegregation cases that came before Brown v. Board of Education.

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola has been at USU since Fall 2018, after receiving her Ph.D. from Emory University. She is also an alumna of the University of Michigan where she majored in African American Studies and earned her law degree at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She credits her varied educational experiences for contributing to her interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching. For more on Dr. Martinez-Cola, please visit her faculty webpage:

Matthew Rodriguez

Matthew Rodriguez (Opening Address with Q&A via Zoom - Monday)

"Hope and Healing Through Active Anti-Racism"

During our time with Matthew Rodriguez, we will unpack the value of educators developing racial literacy. We will illuminate the ways that racism is structural and how it manifests within some of our most common routines, decisions, and procedures in schools. Finally, we will explore the steps we can all take to eradicate racism from our minds, classrooms, schools, and school systems.

Matthew Rodriguez, M.Ed., is a teacher. In his nearly two decades of experience in education, he began as a janitor in a small alternative high school, transitioned to be a math tutor, then began teaching Math and Social Studies.  He became a teacher leader, then an Assistant Principal, and ultimately was the Principal for 7 years in the same school in the Humbolt Park Community of Chicago. There he learned that education is, for many youth, the difference between life or death. The imperative nature of education, in this context, captured his imagination and frames how he continues to prepare leaders in schools today. (


Nirmala Erevelles

Dr. Nirmala Erevelles (Recorded Lecture - Tuesday)

"Towards an Enabling Education"

In this Bennion lecture, Dr. Erevelles will guide participants through a critical, self-reflective examination of their positions in society as they engage with disability knowledge. Participants will learn that disability has a history and that creating an enabling classroom requires understanding that history.

Dr. Nirmala Erevelles is a lifelong boundary crosser. She is dedicated to exploring the shifting, intersectional, and complex ways of disability studies. Specifically, her research focuses on the unruly, messy, unpredictable and taboo body – a habitual outcast in educational (and social) contexts. (


Anna Lees

Dr. Anna Lees (Recorded Lecture - Tuesday)

"Collaborative Field-Based Teacher Preparation"

Research around Indigenous educational research has been a personal endeavor for Dr. Anna Lees. As a descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, she is dedicated to helping teachers and teacher candidates learn how to develop their critical consciousness by centering Indigenous knowledges and intergenerational relationships to create authentic community for students.

Dr. Anna Lees (Odawa; She/Her/hers) is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education. She partners with schools and communities to better prepare teachers for the holistic needs of all children, families, and communities. Anna is committed to developing and sustaining reciprocal partnerships with Indigenous communities to engage community leaders as co-teacher educators, creating spaces for Indigenous knowledge in mainstream schools and institutes of higher education, while endeavoring towards a postcolonial state. (



Joshua Moon Johnson

Dr. Joshua Moon Johnson (Live Speaker Address with Q&A via Zoom - Wednesday)

"Beyond Surviving"

As a Christian, queer, multiracial Asian-American/Euro-American man who grew up in Mississippi, Dr. Joshua Moon Johnson brings an expertise that is filtered through numerous lenses making him relatable, nonjudgmental, and sincere in his efforts to bridge the divide between two seemingly opposed communities: Christians and LGBTQ+ youth. You will leave inspired by the resilience of those who remain faithful in the face of rejection, confusion, and fear.

Dr. Joshua Moon Johnson serves as the Dean of Student Service and Equity Programs and Pathways at American River College. Dr. Moon Johnson  published Beyond Surviving: From Religious Oppression to Queer Activism, a #1 Best-seller on for Gay & Lesbian Activism. His second book, Authentic Leadership, is a co-edited volume about LGBTQ leaders in higher education. (


Dr. Jess Lucero

Dr. Jess Lucero (Recorded Lecture - Thursday)

"Resilient Refugees of Cache Valley Utah"

Salt Lake City is a designated “resettlement city” by U.S. refugee rescue organizations.  As such, Utah has attracted families from Sudan, Somalia, Angola, Ivory Coast, Congo, Eritrea, and Myanmar.  With a deep commitment to the power of community, Dr. Jess Lucero will share her experience with the extraordinary refugee families in Cache Valley and their incredible children who grace classrooms across Utah with their eagerness to learn and unquenchable light. The goal is to be as transformed by them as they are in the classroom.

Dr. Jess Lucero is an Associate Professor of Social Work in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology at Utah State University and Director of the Transforming Communities Institute. Prior to joining the faculty at USU, she completed her doctoral studies at Wayne State University in Detroit and her MSW and BSW at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Lucero’s research is very interdisciplinary and she enjoys exchanging ideas and working to improve social systems with other interdisciplinary scholars, practitioners, and students who are committed to social justice. (


Melissa Tehee

Dr. Melissa Tehee and Psychology Graduate Students, Devon Isaacs, Erica Ficklin, Tish Hicks, and Sallie Mack (Recorded Lecture - Thursday)

"Teaching is Cultural: Considering Culture in the Classroom"

In this session, Dr. Melissa Tehee along with Psychology Graduate Students, Devon Isaacs, Erica Ficklin, Tish Hicks, and Sallie Mack will address the need to consider how culture affects the classroom. They will offer some interactive and practical elements for participants.

Dr. Melissa Tehee is an assistant professor at Utah State University in the Department of Psychology and Director of the American Indian Support Project (AISP) She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Her research has focused on bias/prejudice/racism, health disparities, and domestic violence and other trauma experienced by ethnic and racial minorities, especially American Indians. Her interdisciplinary training allows her to consider the convergence of these topics with law and policy.  (


Anneliese Singh Tulane

Dr. Anneliese Singh  (Live Speaker Address with Q&A via Zoom - Friday)

"Racial Healing and Racial Justice: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing"

In this session, Dr. Anneliese Singh describes core racial healing strategies that people can practice in the aim of collective racial justice and liberation. In doing so, Dr. Singh invites people to explore their own racial healing so they can build stronger relationships across multiple races/ethnicities to identify and transform structural racism within institutional settings.

Dr. Anneliese Singh is a Professor and Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity/Chief Diversity Officer at Tulane University. Her scholarship and community organizing explores racial healing, racial justice, and the resilence, trauma, and identity development experiences of queer and trans people of color. Anneliese is the author of The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing and The Queer and Trans Resilience Workbook. Anneliese is co-founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and the Trans Relilience Project. Dr. Singh is @anneliesesingh on Twitter and Instagram, and her website is


Group of Diverse Students

USU Student Panel (Recorded Presentations - Monday & Friday)

"There was this teacher..."

A panel of five USU students will share stories of “that one teacher” in their struggle against racism.