Dr. Chloë Hughes, the 2010-11 recipient of the Mario and Alma Pastega Award for Excellence in Teaching, was raised in Oxford, England. She earned an undergraduate degree in French and her teaching license at the University of Sussex. As an elementary school teacher and a graduate student at the University of Brighton, she researched the language and literacy development of students struggling in the school system, and was awarded a distinction for her master’s dissertation.
Hughes moved to the United States in 1994, and spent a year as a volunteer literacy-teacher in many organizations in Portland. She worked with homeless children, recent immigrants to the U.S. and refugees from around the world. She also worked at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) where she worked with children with little or no speech. The following year, Hughes completed a post-master’s fellowship at OHSU, and later went on to do doctoral research investigating the language and literacy development of children with severe speech impairments and physical disabilities. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Brighton and worked as a consultant in public schools. Hughes’ scholarship has continued to focus on literacy learning among individuals with disabilities and also how people with disabilities are portrayed in children’s and young adult literature.
In 2003 she transitioned to higher education when she came to WOU. Along with being involved with many forms of education, Hughes has also been a student in the U.K., France and the U.S. As Hughes says, “It’s been a rich experience that has allowed me to connect to my students.” Connecting with her students is integral to Hughes’ teaching philosophy. “My role is to form deep relationships with my students and to be deeply connected to my content, and to make my passions clear in class.”
Hughes’ students have noticed, and appreciated, her teaching style. One of her students, Stacey Reimers, nominated Hughes for this award. “There are no words to even begin to share the amount of effort, devotion, perseverance, and care she shows for every one of her students. Not an interaction has passed without a smile and wise words from Chloë. She is a true teacher.”
As someone who has studied abroad for an extended amount of time, Hughes sympathizes with challenges faced by international students at WOU. Last term she had two international students that she met with regularly outside of class to help provide a support system. “I know the stresses of learning highly demanding academic stuff in a foreign language,” she said, adding that it’s very hard to be thousands of miles away from one’s family. “When difficulties arise, be these at home or in the new country, international students can quickly feel a sense of hopelessness and isolation.” Hughes is also deeply committed to multicultural education and educational equity. She serves in several capacities for the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) and is a board member for its Oregon chapter.
During her presentation at the Pastega Award Ceremony, Hughes expressed her frustration with school reform that has become fixated on high-stakes testing and standardized curricula, which she believes has created anxiety and indifference among students and resulted in the scapegoating of teachers. She congratulated her students who are going to great lengths to be excellent teachers by learning another language, increasing their understanding and commitment to multicultural education, adding an ESOL/ bilingual or reading endorsement to their initial license, or by earning an additional license in special education.