Working with students who spoke 20 different languages and represented 40 countries was a life-changing experience for Dr. Courtney Koestler and has led her to focus on issues of equity, diversity and social justice in mathematics education. Koestler was a K-8 public school teacher for seven years, serving both as a classroom teacher and a mathematics specialist and coach, and for more than a decade, she has been a university-based teacher, educator and researcher. She has written and conducted research about children’s mathematics, mathematics teacher education (especially in regards to diversity, equity, and social justice) and the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics, and recently wrote a book about the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Koestler says that her experience working with culturally, linguistically and economically diverse students as a public school teacher in Northern Virginia informed her work as a researcher and teacher educator.
She has participated in several research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and other organizations on math education, teacher education and the Common Core. An active member of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Ohio Mathematics Education Leadership Council, Koestler is often asked to speak about early childhood and elementary education, and has given numerous presentations about the Common Core standards, mathematics education, creating safe and equitable spaces for education, and teacher professional development.
“I’m really interested in thinking about education from a justice perspective,” Koestler says. “A lot of people think that neutrality should be a goal in education, but there are always decisions you make as a teacher or policy maker that can shape the way that they (students) experience the classroom or schooling in general.” She works to help prospective teachers understand that neutrality may not actually be achievable and that they all have biases that impact their work in the classroom. Koestler says teachers may not think about the social, cultural and political contexts in which they are educating students. Koestler says math educators are gradually beginning to focus more on issues of equity.
Koestler directs the OHIO Center for Equity in Mathematics and Science (OCEMS), a center in the Patton College of Education. OCEMS strives to be an integral part of supporting mathematics and science education projects that aim to enrich and improve the teaching and learning of PreK-16 mathematics and science in southeast Ohio. This vision is achieved by strengthening collaboration, coordination, and communication among Patton College of Education faculty, OHIO faculty in other colleges, PreK-16 educators, and others.
In addition to her work researching and teaching prospective teachers, Koestler serves as a resource and partner for local school districts where she is available to model lessons, observe, consult, co-teach and work with committees. She is also active in LGBTQ education, working with teachers, both prospective and practicing, and families to help create warm, welcoming classroom spaces for all children.