Cathery Yeh’s Academic Journey is a Family Affair

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Cathery Yeh is a mother of two young children, a researcher, and teacher.  She has ten years of teaching experience under her belt and continues to challenge herself by pursuing her doctoral degree in the School of Education. Her research focuses on teaching, learning, teacher education, and culturally responsive schooling.

Cathery decided to return to graduate school four years ago after being in the workforce for more than a decade.  At the time she had a three year old daughter and was expecting her second child.  “I believe this award demonstrates that it is possible to have a family and to survive and hopefully thrive in academia,” says Cathery.  “I am extremely fortunate to have the immense support of my family, the UC Irvine faculty and my peers.” 

Before graduate school she received her bachelor’s in Psychology and her master’s in Education from UCLA. During this time, she was a dedicated elementary school teacher who taught ethnically diverse students in the urban communities of Los Angeles and Orange County. Cathery went above and beyond to visit more than three hundred student homes to better understand their out-of-school culture. Today she still stays in contact with 60 percent of her students, many of whom are now first-generation college students.

Most recently, Cathery received the 2014 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award for her commitment to developing academic responsibility.  She was among eight awardees that were selected from 225 nominees.  This award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education; who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others; and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning.

Currently, her plate is overflowing with different responsibilities both at home and on campus, including her service on the DECADE Student Council, the Advisory Council on Diversity, and as a Pedagogical Fellow.  Despite her many daily tasks, Cathery remains optimistic and grateful noting, “all of my experiences have been invaluable to my academic, professional and intellectual growth and have allowed me the opportunity to meet faculty and students who are fearless and passionate about their commitments to diversity, equity, teaching, and learning.”

In her latest endeavor, she hopes to enhance the teaching system by serving as the Project Manager for a NSF-funded study directed by Dr. Rossella Santagata, the “Learning to Learn from Teaching Project,” which aims to promote collaborative learning and critical reflection on instructional practice with a central focus on students’ thinking and learning.

Cathery’s ultimate goal is to really improve the learning environment for students; more specifically, she is committed to understanding how learning environments impact student engagement and achievement in pre-K to higher education learning settings. Most importantly, her dissertation focuses on how teachers should incorporate children’s out of school experience into instruction that is equitable and culturally relevant. Not everyone has the same background, therefore she plans to address these challenges and improve conditions, especially for students of color.

In the future, Cathery hopes to pursue a career in academia. She really has enjoyed the work she has done as a doctoral student, and is very open to the idea of doing something similar when she finishes.

Cathery’s down time is spent with her family, including six year old Emy and three year old Eliannah and she admits that her academic life and family life have become one, “as a mom and wife, my journey as a graduate student is really a family event.”  She is grateful for her husband’s support and hopes to be a role model for her two young daughters.