In 2014 when Amanda Cockerham graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor of arts degree in Communication from Fresno State, she planned to pursue a career teaching in the K-12 system. A Fresno native, her personal experience, as well as three years working as a substitute teacher for the Fresno Unified School District, combined to ignite a passion for teaching students with diverse backgrounds in the Central Valley. Following this passion led her back to Fresno State to pursue her Masters in Communication with a goal of teaching at the Community College level and eventually to pursue her doctoral studies.
“Ms. Cockerham is in the midst of one of the most astute M.A. Communication Projects I have directed in my 17 years as a professor at Fresno State,” said Dr. Shane Moreman. “Her interests and examples were often atypical in that she brought forth knowledge about and empathy for high school students from California’s rural areas. I realized that she developed this focus and sensitivity from direct experience as a K-12 teacher.”
Cockerham’s M.A. research project aims to reimagine the processes and practices of education to address educational equity concerns. Through honoring students for their assets and not their deficits, Cockerham envisions a system of teaching, which results in a positive educational experience for all students.
“When finished, her project will result in the development of professional learning workshops that assist teachers in the realm of cultural competency,” said Dr. Sergio Fernando Juárez, assistant professor of instructional communication. “She is developing inclusive training practices for onboarding new transitional-kindergarten-12 educators. She is highly interested in developing research that assists underrepresented communities, and her commitment to social justice is an example of her contributions to the community.”
Moreman added, “Admirably, she is connecting abstract critical theory to material pedagogical experience so that her work can benefit fellow educators and their students. I am proud to witness her find a way to apply the M.A. Communication degree so skillfully and impactfully.”
While pursuing her M.A. at Fresno State, Cockerham worked as a teaching associate and has a reputation for being well prepared and offers a comprehensive approach to pedagogy, which translates well to her students.
In addition, she is currently partnering with Dr. Moreman and local high schools (Roosevelt and Sunnyside) to teach public speaking modules to high school students in Art, Engineering, and Health Sciences. She has also been actively involved in the Peach Blossom Festival at Fresno State for the last three years.
“I’m grateful to my family for providing me with unconditional support and moral courage, and I am indebted to my outstanding graduate professors for encouraging me intellectually and personally through my journey,” said Cockerham.
She plans to further her research on diversity and education while pursuing her doctoral degree.