Nicole Mirra, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Urban Teacher Education, is constantly striving to bring the two fields of literacy and youth civic engagement together in ways that bring about more social change and justice in classrooms and society. As she began her career teaching high school English in Brooklyn, New York, she was struck by the structures of inequity that were perpetuated in classrooms and was inspired to leverage critical literacy practices as a force to challenge them. Rather than focus on teaching content alone, Mirra believes that content should be used as a vehicle to teach students to lift their voices in public life. Propelled by her love of teaching young people, she now partners with youth as co-researchers in her work and co-designs studies focused on the issues they care about. She aims to shift conversations in the field of literacy to focus on civic engagement and change rather than merely skills and standardized testing. Mirra also incorporates digital media into her teaching and research to bring together students across the nation and open up conversations about the differences and commonalities that exist across U.S. communities.
Mirra pursued English during her undergraduate years and went on to receive two Master’s degrees in English Education and Education Policy. She later pursued her Ph.D. in Urban Schooling. In addition to engaging in research and teaching courses in English Education, Mirra works with the New York City Department of Education to analyze middle school debate programming. Mirra also participates in the National Writing Project (NWP), which works with teachers across the country to encourage civically engaged writing with young people. In partnership with NWP and Teachers College Press, she published a book on what it means to bring empathy into classrooms through a more critical and civic way. She considers her efforts with students to bring more equity and justice to civic life to be her life’s work.
Nicole spent two years at UTEP as an Assistant Professor in English Education.