Crystal Simmons ‘15PHD

Crystal SimmonsCurriculum and Instruction
Assistant Professor of Social Studies, International and Multicultural Education
SUNY Geneseo, Ella Cline Shear School of Education

Crystal Simmons ‘15PHD developed a love for social studies as an elementary student in Asheboro, N.C., where her school librarian, a Black female, introduced her to Black history and Black people who made valuable contributions to the United States and the world. And her father, who was a personal friend of the librarian, would work with her to ensure that Simmons was reading and selecting books that spoke to her history and reflected her identity.

She also had a teacher in middle school who, she says, would challenge the Eurocentric narrative found in textbooks and introduced his students to multiple and diverse perspectives that were often marginalized or suppressed in the dominant narrative. This fueled Simmons’ passion for history and she was hooked on learning more about who she was and where she came from. And she saw social studies as the perfect space for that.

Simmons attended UNC-Chapel Hill, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history and international studies before starting her teaching career as an eighth grade social studies teacher in her hometown. While teaching in Asheboro, she returned to UNC to work on her middle grades social studies education certification before moving to Durham to continue teaching eighth grade social studies.

Her love and passion for learning inspired her to earn a Master of Education in social studies education. Simmons taught middle school social studies for six years before enrolling in the NC State College of Education to pursue a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. Now, she works as an assistant professor of social studies, international and multicultural education at The State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, a role where she has been able to combine all aspects of teaching that she feels are important and valuable to a well-rounded education.

As assistant professor in the Ella Cline Shear School of Education at SUNY Geneseo, Simmons teaches social studies methods courses in the elementary, secondary and graduate programs, participates in several collaborative and leadership projects on campus, and serves as the co-chair of their campus initiative to become an anti-racist college, where she helps facilitate, organize and plan campus-wide themes and programs dedicated to promoting and furthering the knowledge and discussions of anti-racism.

She also served as the program director for the Ghana Student Teaching Study Abroad Program, In that role, she led groups of student teachers on a seven-week cultural immersion program where the students taught at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Basic School in Kumasi, Ghana, and visited cultural and historical sites.

Simmons’ experiences as a K-12 student and teacher have shaped and informed her research interests, which include K-12 Black history curriculum, critical race theory and anti-racist education and/or pedagogy. As a social studies educator, she encourages future educators to “ask critical questions, to question how knowledge is constructed and provide equitable learning experiences and opportunities for all students.”

I knew that NC State would be a great place for me to further my understanding of social studies and to discuss issues around race and racism in education. The coursework, research opportunities, the high expectations and collaborations with faculty in the curriculum and instruction program definitely prepared me for academia.

Crystal Simmons

Her Story

“When I began looking into the curriculum and instruction program at NC State, I read the bios of the faculty and their research interests and found that many of them intersected with what I wanted to study and research. I knew that this would be a great place for me to further my understanding of social studies and to discuss issues around race and racism in education. I also found that the course offerings, programs and the mission and goals of the College of Education around inquiry-based practices and social justice aligned with my vision for teaching and learning.

The coursework, research opportunities, the high expectations and collaborations with faculty in the curriculum and instruction program definitely prepared me for academia. Under the mentorship and guidance of professors Patricia Marshall, Ph.D., Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, Ph.D., and John Lee, Ph.D., and associate professors Meghan Manfra, Ph.D., and Carl Young, Ph.D., I was not only challenged to think critically and analytically, but they modeled for me in different ways how to serve, mentor, teach and inspire others. They were excellent models for me, who pushed me to be my best.

I was given an opportunity to serve as a graduate teaching assistant in the middle grades English Language Arts and social studies program, in which I taught the social studies methods courses, and this definitely provided me with the training and knowledge to be an effective teacher educator today. This provided me an opportunity to return to my love for teaching but on a different scale. I was accustomed to teaching middle schoolers, but this pushed me to think about the ways I would engage with undergraduate students and further their understanding of not only social studies but also the art and craft of teaching. I forged relationships with students and it taught me how to be understanding, compassionate and empathetic to their needs.

More importantly, my overall experience revealed the impact an education professor can have on the learning experiences of students in K-12 classrooms. I feel that in this role I can make the most impact as I’m preparing and training classroom teachers to be the best that they can be and that makes me happy.”