David Nunez

Back to class

Teacher David Núñez returned for a Ph.D.

David Núñez is no stranger to the U or CEHD—he completed his M.Ed. here in 2006. But until recently, coming back for more wasn’t on the horizon.

“If you asked me five years ago, I didn’t expect to come back to school at all,” he admits.

Núñez was a full-time educator for several years. He taught English in local alternative education programs, helping students who were struggling or had dropped out to complete high school.

He also directed and produced theater with students at Broadway Community School, where he was inspired working with pregnant and parenting teenagers. He enjoyed helping them with find their voices.

“They were a very hardworking group of young people, really striving to turn their lives around,” he says.

Núñez had imagined himself a career classroom teacher. Then he was approached by his school district and asked to step into an administrative position. That presented a new opportunity.

“I didn’t expect to go into school administration,” says Núñez. “I really expected, when I started as a teacher, that it was going to be my career path for the rest of my life.”

Núñez found his work as an administrator important but frustrating. His commitment to social justice clashed with some of the policies he was required to enforce. It spurred him to think about furthering his education.

Culture and teaching

After consulting some professors from his M.Ed. program, he was convinced that beginning work on a Ph.D. was the right step to take. After applying and receiving a fellowship from the University, he began his studies on the culture and teaching track in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in 2013.

Culture and teaching stood out from other graduate programs, Núñez says. Its uniqueness is part of what made the program appealing.

“My own interest in social justice and education led me to it,” he says, “and I have particularly enjoyed its flexibility and the incredible support offered by the faculty.”

Currently in his second year of the program, Núñez works as a research assistant to professors Misty Sato and Timothy Lensmire in addition to coursework.

“The work I’ve been doing is really deeply enjoyable, and the professors are so supportive,” he says. “This program is an excellent place to be.”

In the fall, he’ll be back in the front of the classroom, this time teaching CI 5177 Practical Research, a graduate research course in the department.

Education is full of opportunities to make positive change, says Núñez, and that keeps him excited about his work. He knows his passion for teaching will inspire him to make a difference wherever he goes.

“I’ve been exploring one educational path after another trying to figure out where I fit best, but all of it has really been toward that goal—trying to make some sort of positive impact,” he says.

Núñez sees possibilities in academia but hasn’t forgotten about his earlier work, either. Returning to school administration is another possibility.

“There’s just a lot of potential,” he says. “That drives me forward.”

Read more about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, including the culture and teaching track.

Story by Ellen Fee | June 2015