Classroom Caffeine

A Conversation with Stephanie Toliver

April 12, 2022 Lindsay Persohn Season 2 Episode 24
Classroom Caffeine
A Conversation with Stephanie Toliver
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Stephanie Toliver talks to us about speculative fiction, storytelling, and asking different questions to help us envision a different kind of future in schools. Stephanie is known for her work in Black storytelling and children’s literature, particularly science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres by Black authors. Dr. Toliver has published numerous academic articles and she is the author of Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research: Endarkened Storywork. Stephanie’s work has received many accolades including the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Arts-Based Educational Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, the Promising Researcher Award from the National Council for Teachers of English, and funding from an American Library Association Diversity Research Grant. Dr. Toliver is an assistant professor of Literacy and Secondary Humanities at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is also the curator of the website, www.ReadingBlackFutures.com, where you can read more about her work.

To cite this episode:
Persohn, L. (Host). (2022, Apr 12). A conversation with Stephanie Toliver. (Season 2, No. 24) [Audio podcast episode]. In Classroom Caffeine Podcast series. https://www.classroomcaffeine.com/guests. DOI: 10.5240/6098-3F6A-F391-8767-1E8B-B

Lindsay Persohn:

Education Research has a problem. The work of brilliant education researchers often doesn't reach the practice of brilliant teachers. But the questions and challenges from teachers practice sometimes don't become the work of education researchers. Classroom Caffeine is here to help. In a new episode every other week, I talk with an education researcher or a classroom teacher about what they have learned from their work in education, and what questions they still pursue. In this episode, Dr. Stephanie Toliver talks to us about speculative fiction storytelling and asking different questions to help us envision a different kind of future in schools. Stephanie is known for her work in black storytelling and children's literature, particularly science fiction, fantasy and horror genres by black authors. Dr. Toliver has published numerous academic articles, and she's the author of Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research Endarkened Storywork. Stephanie's work has received many accolades, including the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Arts Based Educational Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, the promising researcher award from the National Council for Teachers of English, and she's received funding from an American Library Association Diversity Research grant. Dr. Toliver is an assistant professor of literacy and secondary humanities at the University of Colorado Boulder. She's also the curator of the website, ReadingBlackFutures.com, where you can read more about her work. For more information about our guest, stay tuned to the end of this episode. So pour a cup of your favorite morning drink. And join me your host, Lindsay Persohn. For Classroom Caffeine research to energize your teaching practice. Stephanie, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the show.

Stephanie Toliver:

Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Lindsay Persohn:

A few questions for you today, from your own experiences and education. Will you share with us one or two moments that inform your thinking now?

Stephanie Toliver:

Yes, so I think I'll start with my experience as a student in K 12. So I have always been a lover of speculative fiction I, I didn't know it was called speculative fiction. I just knew that I liked stories that had like dragons and magic and future worlds with like, super enhanced technology. And I grew up kind of reading those type of stories. And when I got to school, those stories were not really included, or discussed, to the point where even narrative in general outside of like deconstructing like, I don't know, finding the themes or point of views or whatever like that. None of that was honored. And so like all of the storying, all of the love of sci fi and fantasy was kind of just like, kept as something that happens outside of school. And I had multiple times where I tried to bring sci fi and fantasy into school spaces. I remember I want to say it was like ninth grade ish, somewhere around there. And I had asked my teacher for a recommendation because I was like, I want black girls and dragons. I just really wanted to see that because it's not something that I had seen. And I had read, like, of course, like the Harry Potter's and stuff like that. But I wanted black girls and dragons. And I remember she just like, Well, I'm not really sure about a recommendation for that. But like, I'll see what I can do. And it took like, maybe like two weeks or so. And she brought back Sharon Draper's November blues. And I will never forget that because the book is about a black girl who is pregnant, who the father of her child died in a hazing accident in the previous book. And I was just like, this is that dragon like the nothing about this is speculative or anything. And so like that experience to just helped me see that like speculative fiction did not have a place in K 12. And then even in undergrad, I was an English major with the education minor to get the English education degree. And in all of my classes, we read no speculative fiction like nothing. And so once again, it's like just this reifying of sci fi and fantasy don't belong in school. That's something that you do outside over there away from like, real learning. And so that was definitely impactful on how I think about my work now, which really center speculative fiction and fantasy, specifically black speculative fiction and fantasy. And my whole goal in all of the stuff that I do is like, hey, why don't we bring this into schools, here are things that we could do with it. And so that I think, was one of my experiences from education that has really, like, fostered kind of what I do now. And I think the other experience was just as a teacher, I kind of found that teaching the Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird and the Odyssey, even though there are definitely fantastic elements in there. My students eyes would glaze over. And I would try to like do the performing teacher thing where like, Look how interesting this is, and knowing that this is not the stuff that I even read, like, I never read any of that, unless I was forced to. And in all honesty, like I never read To Kill a Mockingbird, or Romeo and Juliet, until I taught it. Like that was the first time that I even bothered to read it. Because in high school, I didn't read any of it, I did the SparkNotes thing. And so like, seeing how their eyes glazed over in that space, and then I had worked with a couple teacher friends of mine to write like this small local grant to get money to get books. And we had this lunch session where we had gotten books for kids based off of the things that they chose to or they wanted to read about. And we would have a book club that would take place during lunch where we would like get food for them. And then we read books, and it would be like other teachers, not just their English teachers in their reading books with them. And the way that like they were doing the same things that we asked them to do, that they didn't want to do with the books that we actually assigned with these other texts. We had read like the graphic novel of Dracula, and we read Ray Bradbury's short story collection. And like those stories, they were like, yes, these are great, too. It was to the point where they were trying to read those in the regular class, not just in lunch. And I felt like terrible saying like, Oh, no, you can't read this now we must read these things that you hate. And so like that also is another thing that kind of helps me in the work that I do now is just seeing, because of course, I focus on speculative fiction, but I specifically focus on YA because the way that their eyes kind of lit up with some of those stories. And of course, like the Dracula and Ray Bradbury's collection are not technically YA stories but those were the speculative stories they were interested in. So I realized like that they liked horror. And I realized that they liked short story sci fi. But then also just the other YA texts that we brought in, like, they were so excited over those books, they were doing the same tasks that we wanted them to do but it didn't take me pulling teeth, to get them to do it. And so I think that both of those experiences have really impacted how I think about my work in terms of just like I said earlier, with, why don't we bring speculative fiction into classrooms, but also like, why not YA in terms of like, how we can get students to kind of foster that love of reading, and they're going to do some of that deconstruction work that we require per the testing, and all of that on their own without our help. Those are the things that influence my work.

Lindsay Persohn:

Stephanie, I love everything, you're saying, I love the idea of of course meeting students where they are with the books they want to learn about and matching that with the things we must do. I also love your story of of searching for these books that you wanted to read and not finding them so doing something about it, even as a high school student. And of course, as a high school teacher, I love everything you're saying. Because you know, I think so often whenever we talk about authentic engagement with texts, we hear about it in an elementary context, right? It's it's always about motivating kids to read. And then by the time they get to middle school, it's like, no, let's cram these classics down their throats instead. So thinking about how we engage and motivate students in a secondary setting around books they love and want to talk about and something that of course, gets teachers excited about what they're reading. This is this is so up my alley. And it's it's just really exciting to hear you talk about this, it really did talk about it with such passion for the work that you're doing. Because I think you've got such a neat space that you work in here as a researcher, and it's very clear that that comes from your teaching experience. So Stephanie, what do you want listeners to know about your work?

Stephanie Toliver:

I think the first thing is the website, just because I know it's not like the official academic thing that people count. But on that website is a list of black speculative fiction, and I separate it into categories of like adult and YA and then I also like talk about like the gender identities of the authors as well as the characters. And I do that because there are so many kids that are like me, and who are searching for these books and have never seen seen them. And then for teachers, like, there's no way for everyone to read every book, it's like impossible. And so a lot of times, I know just as a person in the world, I tend to read Black speculative fiction and like, that's it if I have extra time somewhere to read. And so there's so many books that I don't know about, because that's my reading preference. And I think that every teacher has that as well, with all the stuff that you have to do all the time, you can't read everything. And so I think that I would want listeners to know that that resources available, because there are books on there, and there's a ton of them. I don't know how many there are anymore. But there's a ton of them. And I update it usually every other month. So there's just a plethora of books that are on there. And I think that that would be helpful, even if it's just a way to direct students who are looking for these books. So they don't end up with a November Blues book, which was a good book, but like not the book I was looking for. And so I think that that would be helpful for students to have. And I think the other part is, with some of my like more scholarly work, I don't like that term. But like with with some of that, I think in it, I try to talk about like, not only the books that I may do content analyses on or something like that. But I also talk about like how we can bring speculative fiction into classrooms. So it may be my last few articles have been on how black girls use speculative fiction to talk about the world. And so I think about how often when I was asked to write a personal story, and if I wrote one that didn't have certain elements, specifically like pain, and poverty or something like that, people just really don't care. And so I think about how the girls that I worked with used sci fi and fantasy and horror to talk about some of that pain, but to also write themselves out of it. And so I think about how teachers can kind of take that up. And like, think about the type of essays and other writing projects that we assign and think about how we might alter those to allow space for other types of writing and storytelling, especially considering that like, so many communities of color storytelling is how we talk about the world, how we engage in research. And that's just not validated in so many school spaces is not validated in academia, either. It's kind of like, Oh, you must write in a specific way, when I'm thinking of K 12. It was like I had to teach argumentative and explanatory writing. And then the narrative writing was still not narrative narrative, there is still like, you had to make some sort of argument in the storytelling. And then like, if you just give space for students to write how they feel and what they're seeing about the world, they may engage in those exact practices. But the constraints on writing is so detrimental for so many students. And I think that from reading some of that work, then maybe teachers can rethink about how they're engaging in writing assignments and how they're thinking about what's possible in writing. I remember one, one thing that one of the girls I worked with said, and she goes to a STEAM school in Georgia, and she was talking about how she says, Well, you know, they don't allow us to, like, imagine or dream in schools that's outside of school, and that, like, hurt my feelings so badly. Because I felt the same way when I was younger. And so my hope is that, like teachers will see this type of work and think about like, Are we killing imagination in our school spaces, because of the writing that we are often and I'm not saying like, this is something that we all want to do, it's often what we're forced to do, but maybe like rethinking how that writing can look and how like, I don't know, a sci fi story can be an argumentative essay, it can be an explanatory essay as well, if we just think about it a little bit differently.

Lindsay Persohn:

What a world of possibilities. I really love how you're thinking about this, and also how we can think about just shifting the assignment a little bit to allow for new options and new possibilities and new connections for students. This idea of storytelling, I, I'm hoping that she might tell us a little bit more about storytelling, and particularly how we might be able to bring storytelling into a classroom, whether it be for social reasons to help us understand each other and to develop some of those connections, or maybe even as a planning for writing or, or some way of foreshadowing, what writing might look like. Can we say a little bit more about storytelling and how we might be able to use those kinds of structures?

Stephanie Toliver:

Yes, I love storytelling. And I tried to put it in lots of different things. And I've been told multiple times that my writing is to narrative. And so I've been pushing back against that. But I think that in terms of bringing stories in the stories are already there. Because so often, when kids are talking to each other, when they're talking to their families, like no one says like, in this conversation, I will talk about these three things is my thesis for this conversation like no does that. Usually we tell it as story, right? We're like, oh, one time when long ago, or a couple of weeks ago, these things happened. We talked about the people, we talked about the characters who were a part of that story, we talk about the setting, usually there's a conflict or else, there's no reason to really tell some of the story. And so like, there are all these elements of story that are already in our classrooms, we just don't look for them. Because that's not what's required by our tests, right? Like, we don't have to focus on that.

Lindsay Persohn:

It makes me wonder why we make this so difficult, right? Why don't we use what we're already doing? And what kids are already talking about structures for learning in school?

Stephanie Toliver:

Yeah. I mean, there's so many people who have talked about cultural community wealth, and like the funds of knowledge and things like that. And I think that we should be talking about it and bringing those things in. But I also understand the constraints because we have these big massive tests that determine so much of stuff for some reason. And that usually pushes out some of those community knowledge is pushes out those funds of knowledge. I think about like my son, who is a very big storyteller in lots of different ways, to the point where like, even if it's like a word problem for math, he wants to use a story to tell me why this is the answer. And not like actually use any mathematical terms. But I have to tell him like, Okay, well, the school wants this. And so I have to shut that story down sometimes, because I know that because he's in third grade, he has to take this test. And if he doesn't pass it, because he's in Florida Virtual School, because it's where his dad is. And like, if he doesn't pass it, he does not move on to fourth grade. And so I have to stop his storytelling. To make sure that he advances in school, it's one of the things has been really hard for me as someone who like advocates for story to be like, Okay, well, right now, like, can you tell me the story? And then can you reword that story in ways that the school will accept? And sometimes he's like, Well, why? And I'm like, to try to explain that to an eight year old and say, well, your stories, according to the school are not valid for this type of work is so hard. It's like, I wish that we could break away from some of this. But until some of the testing constraints are removed, it's also hard to bring in those knowledges. Right. But I think in terms of storytelling, these are the things that kids have consistently done, just people, humans are storytellers, like, it's not even just kids like all of us tell stories. I'm telling a story right now, I just did with my son. And so I think that these are things that are present. And we just have to think about how we can take those things that are present, and utilize them in classrooms, because I think that that would help with some of the issues that we're having. Like, I think about how I'll go back to some of the girls that I was working with, and the girls I was working with were eighth grade girls. And they were talking about how like, oh, well, I'm not a writer. And I'm not a good reader. And I was just like What, because they had written the spec of stories with all of these very intricate details. And they were like, oh, but I'm not a writer. And I was like, what does this even mean? I'm like, Well, you know, I can write these, but I'm not a writer in school. And so I'm, I wonder how we can help them to see themselves as writers in both places. And I think that does require us to acknowledge the storytelling capabilities that they already have. And so when I work with students, I don't come in and say, Here is narrative, here's what a character is, here is a setting. And here's exactly how you need to do it. Instead, when I talk to them, I'm like, okay, you've read books, before you've watched movies, you may have watched a series on Webtoons, or something like that, what draws you into a character? What keeps you focused on that character, or what makes you like, think that this character does not even need to be here, and that they're just no superfluous or something? And they will detail all the aspects of characterization that we asked them to do in other spaces. And I didn't have to teach any of it. It was just so you see these things? What do you think? And then we use that as like the jumping off point to talk about other things. And so I think that we can use the knowledge that they already have in schools, it just requires us to ask different questions, instead of going in and being the be all end all have knowledge at the front of the classroom.

Lindsay Persohn:

Asking different questions, I think is really key here at finding how we match up what kids are already doing with what school is asking us to do. And I think that can be really hard, because so often, I think, as teachers, we step in with this a priori thing that we determined based on what the state is asking us for. And our curriculum guides have mapped out for us. But you know, I think if we can just push that to the side a little bit, you know, obviously teachers are not in a position where they can abandon curriculum. But as you said, I think it's about finding space to ask different questions and to really open that conversation up for what kids are already thinking and what they already know. And again, approaching it in that asset based way rather than nope, everything you thought you knew about storytelling, you're going to have to leave that behind because we're writing five paragraph essays, right. What a horrible thing to do to kids right? And, and, and to do to the future of literature and storytelling for kids to think that there are certain things that only happen in school, and there are certain things that I can only do outside of school. Why is that? And I guess that speaks to speculative fiction, like, Why could we write a story about what we wish school looked like? You know, I think that there's a lot of power in that kind of thinking, particularly when we live in a world that may not look like we want it to. There's a lot of dreaming and a lot of imagination that can happen there, which, as you said, helps us to meet those expectations of school in a slightly different kind of way than the direct path that I think schools often lay out for us.

Stephanie Toliver:

I like what you said made me think about, like, how could like the writing of a futuristic school space where the students have everything they need, like, if that were an essay prompt, that could also be an argument for the things that they think needs to happen in school spaces is just just rephrasing how we're looking at it. And I really appreciate I know, I'm Gholdy Muhammad has the book Cultivating Genius, and I've had, I work with pre service teachers now. And one of the things that we do is we use the academic, there's these academic standards aligned curriculum units that are at the Department of Education. And in those lessons, it just focuses on like the skills and the standards, because of course, like that's the things that we're supposed to focus on. And so what I've had them do is go to those lessons and add the stuff that's missing. So like, how do we approach student identity with the lesson that's here? How do we add criticality to the lesson that's already here? How do we add joy? How do we add speculative thinking to the things that are already put in place? And so I'm trying to get them to think about, yes, these are sample units, but I'm hoping that like, no matter what unit you see, in the future, you'll think about like, Okay, here's what they gave me, it's mostly focused on skills. So how do I add the other components that are missing to what's already here to help make sure that students are getting what they need. And I think that is a speculative process in itself as well. But something that we can do to work within the systems that we're forced to work within?

Lindsay Persohn:

What an awesome way to think about being critical of the work we're asked to do as teachers or of the curriculum, we're asked to deliver to students by determining what's missing. And and to do that through this kind of creative process of what would it look like if this were perfect? And so how do we right towards that end? What are the means to get there? I think that's such an interesting way to approach these questions that really does allow for very broad kinds of thinking. Because I think even if you were to say, so let's be critical of this lesson plan for a minute, you know, that does not open things up in the way that it would if you think of it from a fictionalized speculative storytelling kind of angle. What would we want this to look like if it was perfect? And I just I love that prompt. And I think I've got to find a way to work that into one of my classes in the future, because we always ask critical questions, but I've never thought of approaching it in quite that way. And I really love that creative angle that I think opens the conversation up in ways that other kinds of questioning or other lines of questioning wouldn't necessarily find love that idea.

Stephanie Toliver:

Yeah, I mean, it's scary to like, just come at it. Like, let's be critical of this lesson plan, especially if it's one that's created by the state and posted on the website like that.

Lindsay Persohn:

Right. Right.

Stephanie Toliver:

I wouldn't want to do that. But then if you're just talking about what can we add? How can we dream of this lesson? Or how can we dream better about this lesson, then that's a different, it's a different angle, you're still doing the critical work. But it's also not looking at it. I think, also, it's not looking at it as this lesson is the criminal the villain in our teaching process. It's saying we need to work together with this like, so the curriculum is kind of like our sidekick, we're helping to make it better.

Lindsay Persohn:

Right. And I think it allows for us to put ourselves in different roles around that lesson, because I think you can read a lesson plan and think, What would this be like if I was a student sitting with this lesson? Versus what would this be like if I was sitting as the teacher in this lesson? And I think that again, that that idea of speculative fiction and applying it in this way, it does allow for much broader kinds of thinking, you know, what would this be like for me? What would the experience of this lesson be like? And that's so different than just saying, what's missing from this lesson? Because I think that even that question suggests that you're looking for some sort of predetermined response, right? What is the answer to my question, rather than let's imagine for a minute, what else could this be like? And that's such an open way of thinking about it. I really appreciate that angle for that kind of critical questioning because yeah, I think you could get so many interesting responses that allow us just to think completely outside of the box?

Stephanie Toliver:

Yeah, it's one of the things that I really love about that is because like, they asked like, what do you want us to add? And I'm like, whatever you need to add. And like, I don't give them an exact like these are the things that I would like you to have for this particular thing. And at first, it can kind of be frustrating, because there's just too, here's what you need to do you do it, therefore you get a thumbs up. And I'm like, No, whatever you think needs to be added. And eventually, what happens is like, they start doing such different work. And so like, I'll get, I don't know, they'll add poems or things, or they they're addressing different aspects of the world, or they're like scrapping the lesson and creating something completely new. And so all of these things collectively, like I get such a very big range of additions. And then I tell them, I'm like, think about all these additions that we created, and none of them are the same, everyone took a different angle. But if you wanted to like thinking about collaboration amongst your colleagues, all these ideas are percolating in these brains in this one little space. Imagine what we could do beyond it. And that I mean, I guess, going back to the imagining, I do a lot of that. But I do think like, there are so many different things that happen, because they're not forced to just pick one answer, or to find the answer that matches my own. And the ways that they fix it or add to it may be so different from what I'm thinking. But I think it's all valid, because we're all doing that dreaming work together.

Lindsay Persohn:

Right. And that still honors, the experiences that others bring to that space. And it helps us to think in ways that we might not ever really get to otherwise. So I'm really excited about this idea. And I can't wait to try it out. Because I think that there are so many ways that you can bring up a lesson plan, ask those questions, how could this be different? What might this look like if we were to to enhance this lesson or to think differently about it? So that that's just really exciting work? I think, and I love how it also ties back to the work that you've done with speculative fiction and imagining because I, I would have never thought to apply it in that way to that kind of really teachery kind of thinking. So that's that's great stuff. Well, Stephanie, given the challenges of today's educational climate, what message do you want teachers to hear?

Stephanie Toliver:

I think the first thing is that there's a lot of there's a lot of attempting to protect students from things that are happening. And I think that, I mean, it's important to, of course, like protect students from some of the things that they may not want to hear about, so trigger warnings and things like that are important. But I also think that students know, and young people know what's going on as much as we try to protect them from whatever conversations, they know. And I think that sometimes by not having some of the conversations, it kind of makes us look like we're not trusting of them. And I think that that's an important thing to consider. Because of course teaching and education, it's a relationship. It's not just the teacher bestowing information, but it's also the relationships that we cultivate with the young Relationships are a topic that I'm sure you can imagine comes people that are in those classrooms. And when we don't talk about some of those things, we have to think about, like, up again and again and again, in the conversations I have for the what relationship are we cultivating? Or what relationship are we destroying, by not having the conversation that they're ready to have some of the conversations that I've show. And what's always interesting to me is that it had with, of course, these are college age students, but they're like, well, we've never had these conversations about comes back to relationships, no matter what kind of research whose lands this university sits. And we didn't know like, when people do talk about the lands, they talk about them as someone is doing, no matter what their teaching background looks indigenous people are part of the past and not part of the right now. And the contemporary and the futuristic moment. I've like, it all comes back to people. And I think that that's had students who were just like, all this time, no one talks about whiteness. And now I'm supposed to as a 20, something so important. And I think that that really speaks to the year old person, have known all of this, and I didn't know and now people are expecting me to know, and I don't know what to messiness that you referred to is that, of course, working with do with this. And it's because those conversations just weren't being had. And so they're not upset that they're learning new people is messy. But whenever we try to put everything into its things. They're upset, because no one talked to them about it before. I think I would want teachers to think about like, how are we cultivating our relationships by not having own little buckets, and we try to, to, to dictate what's certain conversations. And I think that that's important, and there are students who really, really want to have the supposed to happen in classrooms, we don't leave room conversation, who are scared to have it. And so we have to think about them to like, how do we build that relationship, so they for the relationships, we don't leave room for those important don't fear, talking about things that they're curious about? I mean, it's education, we're supposed to help them learn, and conversations that maybe there's one student in our class who help them find resources to aid in that learning. We may not be, of course, we're not knowledgeable about everything wants to know about it, and their ideas are contagious. And in the world. So we can't like get up there and say, Well, today I'm going to talk about this topic that I don't know as teachers, sometimes I think there's this feeling that you anything about. But we can help to cultivate those conversations, we can help to direct them to resources that may be helpful for them and thinking about whatever it is have to shut that down and just get on with the curriculum, when that they're thinking about. And so I think, just overall with today's educational climate, and I know that there is a lot of that's really not what learning is all about. That's what school mess in education right now, just a lot of it. But I think that we have to think about the relationships that we're cultivating and what that means for us, for our students, and has become all about. So I really love the way you're for the communities and for the adults that they will grow into being. thinking about how we can create those spaces by thinking about what fiction offers to us, and what we can imagine or envision, and how we can think about joy and literature and what that looks like. Because of course, I'm also reminded of Rudine Sims Bishop's, Mirrors, Windows and Doors. And I think that that that can be found in speculative fiction as well, because as you said, November Blues was handed to you as though that's what you asked for. And you couldn't see

Lindsay Persohn:

Thank you for inviting me once again. I've yourself or you couldn't see your request in it. But it's interesting to me that a teacher thought that that might match up. And I think that that's where resources, like your website, really come in handy for teachers who are looking to help students find the books that they that they may really connect with, or that might actually be what they're asking for. So thank you so much for that wonderful resource. And thank you for your time today. And thank you for the tremendous work you're doing in the world of education. really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you. Me too. Dr. Stephanie Toliver is known for her work in Black storytelling and children's literature, particularly science fiction, fantasy and horror genres by Black authors. Informed by her love of science fiction and fantasy texts, as well as her experience as a ninth and tenth grade English teacher, Stephanie scholarship centers on the freedom dreams of Black youth, and honors the historical legacy that Black imaginations have had and will have on activism and social change. Specifically, she focuses on representations of and responses to Black youth in speculative fiction texts, to discuss the implications of erasing Black children from futuristic and imaginative context and to assist teachers in imagining how classrooms can use speculative fiction as a means to center Black joy and Black dreams. She is the author of Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research Endarkened Storywork, and her academic work has been published in journals including Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Journal of Literacy Research, Research in the Teaching of English, Journal of Literacy and Language Education, and Children's Literature in Education. Her public scholarship has been featured on Lit Hub, HuffPost, and the Horn Book. Stephanie earned her PhD in Language and Literacy Education from the University of Georgia and was a 2019 National Academy of Education Spencer Dissertation fellow. Her dissertation won the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Arts Based Educational Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Stephanie's work has also been recognized with the Promising Researcher Award from the National Council for Teachers of English and through funding from an American Library Association Diversity Research grant. Dr. Toliver is an assistant professor of literacy and secondary humanities at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is also the curator of the website ReadingBlackFutures.com, where you can read more about Dr. Toliver's work and connect with her that's www.R E A D I N G B L A C K F U T U R E S dot C O M. For the good of all students, good research should inform good practice and vice versa. Listeners are invited to respond to an episode learn more about our guests, search past episodes, or request a topic or conversation with a specific person through our website at ClassroomCaffeine dot com. If you've learned something today or just enjoyed listening, please be encouraged to talk about what you heard with your colleagues, and subscribe and review this podcast through your podcast provider. As always, I raise my mug to you, teachers. Thanks for joining me.