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Curriculum Vitae

By skillfully interweaving my expertise with a dynamic, human-centered approach, I collaborate with community stakeholders to cultivate spaces that inspire, nurture, & sustain the human spirit.

Highlights

  • Teaching & Educational Leadership. Empowering future educators with over a decade's experience, teaching more than 15 distinct courses across diverse subjects, and leading innovative program designs in multiple esteemed institutions

  • Curriculum & Evaluation. Crafting adaptable curricula across multiple platforms, impacting over 15,000 students across 250 schools with 20+ distinctive learning programs for learners from preschool to university level

  • Design & Social Impact. Driving award winning transformative community change, recognized leader in playful learning, youth participatory action research, and human-centered design across community-based, cultural, and medical institutions

Education

EDUCATION

Ph.D. Educational and Community-based Action Research

University of Cincinnati

M.A. Educational Studies for Social Change

Concentration in Teacher Action Research 

University of Cincinnati

B.A. Political Science

Concentration in Education Law & Policy

Indiana University

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

 

ACADEMIC APPOINTMENTS

 

Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA

DeLeT Master’s in Teaching

Teaching Faculty, Program Design Team Leader, 2021 - Present

MAT630  Practitioner Research I (hybrid, graduate)

MAT631  Practitioner Research II (hybrid, graduate)

 

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Teacher of Record, 2016 - Present

EDST8073 Master’s Capstone Project in Educational Studies (online, graduate)

DAAP5110 Visual Arts Education I (hybrid, graduate and undergraduate)

DAAP7002 Visual Arts Research Methods (in-person, graduate and undergraduate)

MDL6030 Middle Childhood Social Studies Certificate (online, graduate)

EDST1001 Introduction to Education (in-person, undergraduate)

Teacher Action Research Certification (in-service teachers)

 

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Teacher Assistant to Dr. Miriam Raider-Roth, 2016 - 2019

EDST7043 Practitioner Action Research I (blended learning, graduate)

EDST7053 Practitioner Action Research II (in-person, graduate)

EDST7040 Relational Cultural Theory (in-person, graduate)


 

Mandel Teacher Educator Institute

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation

Graduate Assistant, 2018 - 2022

Co-taught sessions with Dr. Jeffrey Stanzler and Dr. Miriam Raider-Roth

Educational Technology: Google Classroom, Flipgrid, & More (online)

Following the Child: Project-based Learning (online)

Design-Thinking for Educators Series 1 & 2 (in-person)

Playful Learning Design (in-person)

Practitioner Action Research: Group Level Assessment (in-person)


 

PREK-12TH GRADE TEACHING APPOINTMENTS

 

Jarson Education Center, Cincinnati, OH

Second Grade Teacher, 2018 - 2022

Received $500 from the Jarson Education Teacher Award 

 

Arlitt Center for Education, Research, and Sustainability, Cincinnati, OH

Associate Preschool Teacher, Inclusive Specialist, 2014 - 2016

Received $4,800 from the Arlitt Best Practices in Teaching Research Award

Aliza Begin Elementary School, Migdal HaEmek, Israel

Summer ESL Teacher, 2014

 

Dawson Elementary School, Scotland Neck, NC

Special Education K-5 Teacher, 2011 - 2013

Special Education Department Chair

Received $2,000 from the Scotland Neck Farm Bureau School Grant and $4,000 in funding from Donors Choose funding for STEM classroom projects

 

ARTS-BASED RESEARCH & DESIGN

 

ish, Cincinnati, OH

Director of Creative Design & Impact, 2020 - 2023

  • Strategic Leadership: Led the design of 60+ community experiences in Cincinnati, impacting 2M+ residents, in collaboration with an extensive network of community stakeholders, using design thinking and action research.

  • Innovative Initiative Design: Instrumental in flagship initiatives like the BLINK Parade and the Jewish Teen Initiative, further amplifying teen empowerment by pioneering the “Teen Think Tank”. Mentored 15 teens, yielding standout experiences like ‘ish Garage’, ‘Trashion’, ‘Trash Radio’, and ‘Glow Up’.

  • Comprehensive Evaluation: Championed diverse program evaluation methods from quantitative to arts-based, ensuring transparent and strategic reporting to boards and the broader community.

Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH

UnMuseum Spatial Play and Learning Design Consultant, 2019 - 2020

Partnered with architects and museum personnel to conceptualize and execute the interior design of a premier children's museum in downtown Cincinnati.

Digital Playscape: Free STEAM Learning Center

Founder, Curriculum Designer, 2019 - 2020

Free immersive art installation in downtown Cincinnati; Merging art, technology, and play in Cincinnati, empowering educators with AI and augmented reality to ignite learner creativity and curiosity.

University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine

Playful Learning Consultant, 2020

Designed play-based wellness workshop for OBGYN residents.

 


 

FUNDED RESEARCH & COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

Interdisciplinary Research on Educational Inclusivity, Intersectionality, and Formative Experiences of Belonging:

 

Creating a Thriving Inclusive Teen Ecosystem: An Action Research Project

  • Role: Grant Writer, Director, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $900,000 from the Jim Joseph Foundation & The Jewish Foundation

  • Duration: December 2020 - Present

 

“Where Do I Belong?”: A Youth Participatory Action Research Project by Jew-ish LatinX & LGBTQIA+ Young People Resulting in the Development of the ish Garage

  • Role: Grant Writer, Youth Participatory Action Research Methodologist, & Lead Facilitator

  • Funding: $10,000 from Jim Joseph Foundation

  • Duration: May 2021 - 2023

 

"Be About It, Love is a Practice": A Youth Participatory Action Research Photovoice Exhibit on Stories of Relationships & Belonging of Teens

  • Role: Grant Writer, Youth Participatory Action Research Methodologist, & Lead Facilitator

  • Funding: $2,000 by Women Helping Women, Cincinnati

  • Duration: January 2023

Empowering Voices Against Violence: A 'Black Lives Matter' Youth Participatory Action Research Initiative on Gun Violence & Police Brutality in Cincinnati

  • Role: Youth Participatory Action Research Methodologist

  • Duration: June 2016 to August 2016

Research in STEM/STEAM Education:

Study to Assess Impact of Computational Thinking for Adolescents in Out-Of-School-Time STEAM Programming

  • Roles: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $1,900 from University of Cincinnati CECH Technology and Instructional Design Grant

  • Duration: February 2019 - 2020

 

Digital Playscape: STEAM Center for Social Impact in Greater Cincinnati Area

  • Roles: Grant Writer, Co-Director, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $15,000 from the People's Liberty Globe Grant

  • Duration: November 2018 - August 2019

 

Digital Dimensions in Education: Integrating VR & AR within a 6th Grade STEAM Curriculum Aligned to Ohio State Standards

  • Role: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $4,000 from the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative

  • Duration: June 2018 - August 2018

 

Shadows and Algorithms: AI-Driven Shade Structure Redesign for 7th Grade STEAM Integration, in Partnership with Cincinnati Zoo & Aligned to Ohio State Standards

  • Role: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $3,800 from the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative

  • Duration: June 2018 - August 2018

 

Integrating Raspberry Pi Programming into 7th Grade STEAM Curriculum Aligned with Ohio State Standard

  • Role: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $4,000 from the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative

  • Duration: June 2018 - August 2018

 

Leveraging VR & AR for Social Change in Multidisciplinary Middle School Curriculum 

  • Roles: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $2,000 from University of Cincinnati CECH Technology and Instructional Grant

  • Duration: June 2017 - August 2017

 

Empowering Cultural Sustainability in High School Education: A YPAR Approach Using AI and Poetry in the 'Breakthrough Cincinnati TRIBE' Curriculum

  • Roles: Grant Writer, Curriculum Designer, & Evaluator

  • Funding: $2,000 from University of Cincinnati CECH Technology and Instructional Design Grant

  • Duration: June 2017 - August 2017

Research in Educational Practices & Professional Development:

Studying Learning Trajectories of Jewish Educators in Professional Development: A Practitioner Action Research Study

  • Role: Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Miriam Raider-Roth

  • Funding: Mandel Teacher Educator Institute

  • Duration: October 2019 - Present

Building Bridges in the Virtual Classroom: Pre-Service Teachers Investigating Relationship-Building Practices with Learners Online During COVID in a Summer Academic Enrichment Program

  • Role: Principal Investigator

  • Funding: $4,000 from University of Cincinnati’s various grants

  • Duration: May 2019 - 2022

Two Programs Across the Country: Research & Reflection Partnership with Tisch Fellowship & ish's Emerging Artist Fellowship

  • Role: Learning Partner with Tisch Fellowship

  • Funding: $10,000 from Upstart's Spring Partnership Grant

  • Duration: November 2021 - 2022

Research in Community & Public Health:

National Academy of Medicine Art Exhibit on Clinician Resilience: University of Cincinnati College of Medicine's (UCCM) Culture of Resiliency Study

  • Role: Participatory Arts-based Research Method Consultant

  • Project: Studied UCCM's culture of resiliency using a participatory arts-based research method

  • Duration: February 2020

Capturing the Food Environment of Low-Income Mothers

  • Role: Photovoice Co-Facilitator & Research Assistant

  • Funding: $13,000 from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Grant

  • Duration: November 2015 to January 2016

Youth Built Change: Public Health Disparities Impacting Youth in Cincinnati

  • Role: Youth Participatory Action Research Methodologist, trained 40 high school students in youth participatory action research methodology

  • Funding: National Institute of Health’s Science Education Partnership Award

  • Duration: May 2018 - December 2018


 

Research in Early Education, Special Education, & Inclusion:

Photovoice with Preschoolers: A Teacher Action Research Project

  • Role: Action Researcher & Grant Writer

  • Funding: $2,000 from University of Cincinnati CECH Technology and Instructional Design Grant

  • Duration: August 2015 to May 2016

Exclusion within Inclusion: Social Experiences of Preschoolers with IEPs

  • Role: Principal Investigator & Grant Writer

  • Funding: $1,800 from Arlitt Best Practices in Teaching Research Grant

  • Duration: October 2014 - May 2015

Using Big Data to Track Arlitt Student Kindergarten Success

  • Role: Research Assistant & Grant Writer

  • Funding: $3,000 from Arlitt Best Practices in Teaching Research Grant

  • Duration: September 2014 to May 2016

PUBLICATIONS
 

Published

Lester, A.J. (2022). Review Essay: Nurturing Students’ Character: Everyday Teaching

Activities for Social-Emotional Learning, Journal of Jewish Education, Taylor & Francis.

 

Lester, A.J. (2022). Book Review: Action research for student teachers, Journal of

Educational Action Research, Taylor & Francis. 

 

Arthur, B., Boehr, C., Carlson, S, Deters, A., Lester, A.J., Raider-Roth, M., Theurer, P., &

Tyler, S. (2019). "Relational Mentoring and the Centrality of Self-care," in Mentoring in Higher Education: Case Studies of Peer Learning and Pedagogical Development, Woolhouse, C. & Nicholson, L. (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan: United Kingdom.

 

Lester, A.L. & Mishkin, S. (2019) “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Mandel Teacher

Educators Go to School.” EJewish Philanthropy.

 

Manuscripts Submitted and/or Under Review

Lester, A.J. (2023). Connection in a Time of Disconnection: Preservice Teachers Use Action

Research to Study “Holding S.P.A.C.E.” for Adolescent Learners Online During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Under review.

 

Lester, A.J. (2023). “When It All Falls Apart, We Still Hold It Together”: A Portrait of a

Teaching Fellow Leveraging Action Research to Foster Online Relational Learning Amidst COVID-19. Submitted.

 

Lester, A.J. (2023). Yotzer Or: Educators Creating Light at HUC-JIR. Under Review.

Manuscripts In Development

Lester, A.J. & Sparough. G. Social Fabric Method: Introducing a New Participatory Action

Research Method for Community Engagement and Evaluation. In development.

 

Lester, A.J. Demystifying AI in Education: A Collaborative Exploration of ChatGPT and its Transformative Potential and Challenges. In development.

 

PRESENTATIONS

 

Lester, A.J., Ahmad, S., Hassan, S., Rubinstein, A., & Suarez, A. (2023). Our Community

Safe Space: A Youth Participatory Action Research Project by Cincinnati's Teen Think Tank. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL. 


 

Lester, A.J., Raider-Roth, M.B., Feiman-Nemser, S., Dorph, G.Z., & Stanzler, J. (2023).

Exploring the Learning Trajectories of Educators in a Two-Year Program: A Practitioner Research Study. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL. 


 

Raider-Roth, M.B., Lester, A.J., Yates, S., Rodgers, C.R. (2023). Creating a Relational

Learning Community Online with Undergraduate Teaching Fellows During COVID-19 in Building Relational Learning Communities in Higher Education: Lessons from Practitioner and Self-Study Research, American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL. 


 

Lester, A.J. (2022). Immersive Theater & Live Action Role Play Panel, Playable Theatre

Symposium, Virtual, Invited.


 

Lester, A.J. & Glaser, N. (2021). Designing for Play: Reflections on Creating an Immersive

Free STEAM Makerspace in an Urban Community. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Virtual. 


 

Lester, A., Wade, L., Guenthner, R., LeBlanc, A., Overkamp, S., Wane, M. & Delaney, R.

(2020). Holding S.P.A.C.E. Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Preservice Teacher Action Research Study. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA.


 

Lester, A., Wade, L., Guenthner, R., LeBlanc, A., Overkamp, S., Wane, M. & Delaney, R.

(2020). Teaching During COVID-19: Portraits of Preservice Teachers Creating and Sustaining Virtual Holding Environments. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Virtual. 


 

Glaser, N. & Lester, A.J. (2020). Responding to Community Needs in the Design of the

Digital Playscape: A Free STEAM Makerspace. International Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Virtual.


 

Lester, A.J. (2019). Why Designers Need to Work with Teachers: Digital Playscape Free

Immersive STEAM Center. Re-imagining New Worlds: The Future of Digital Art. Re- Imagined Worlds Digital Art Panel, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH.


 

Wight, R. A., Lester, A.J., Shannon-Baker, P., & Jorgenson, S. (2019). Poetry as Truth –

DeSchooling the USA, AERA, & Ivan Illich. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, CA.


 

Lester, A.J. (2018). Using Group-Level Assessment to Amplify Student Voice in a Summer

Academic Enrichment Program for Adolescents. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York City, NY.


 

Lester, A.J. & Horowitz, J. (2015). The Social Experiences of Early Childhood for Children

with IEPs: Supporting Inclusivity. University of Cincinnati Diversity Day Conference, Cincinnati, OH.



 

CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT

Jewish Education Center of Cleveland & Covenant Foundation, Cleveland, OH

Curriculum Designer, 2020

National La-Bri'ut Covid-19 Trauma-Informed K-5 Curricula

10,000 pre k-6th grade students; 200 schools

 

Developed national program - five week modules (30 weeks total) for asynchronous and synchronous K-6th grade trauma-informed value-based curriculum utilizing project-based learning principles and virtual educational platforms (FlipGrid and Zoom).

 

Breakthrough Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Director of Curriculum & Evaluation, 2015 - 2020

~1,280 students;

~320 staff

Breakthrough Cincinnati is an organization dedicated to educational equity, providing innovative, tuition-free academic programs for students of color and offering teaching internships for aspiring educators. My role involved developing, implementing, and evaluating curricula focused on various themes, such as Identity, Empowerment, and Social Justice; Decolonial, Intersectional, and Critical Literacy Approach; Integrated STEM/STEAM Education and Design Thinking; Professional Development Curricula for Preservice Teaching Fellows.

6th-9th Grade Curricula Developed for Breakthrough Cincinnati

 

Identity, Empowerment, and Social Justice Curricula

9th Grade “Being Black is Not a Crime”: Critical Literacy Curriculum of Walter Dean Myers’ “Monster” 

 

8th Grade My Story; My Voice: Narrative Writing Curriculum to Explore Who I am & What I Bring the World 

 

7th Grade “Piecing Me Together” Book Curriculum: Exploring Me, Myself, and I 

 

6th Grade “Saving Wonder” Book Curriculum: Empathy, Voice, and Empowerment

 

Decolonial, Intersectional, & Critical Literacy Approach

9th Grade We the People: Democracy, Equity, and Justice; a Social Studies Curriculum

8th Grade Critical Literacy Curriculum: Studying “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Diary” and the #MeToo Movement 

 

6th Grade Community, Love, and Culture Curriculum: African American Studies Curriculum

 

Integrated STEM/STEAM Education & Design Thinking

9th Grade Geometropolis: Building a Better Future - A 9th Grade Geometry Curriculum for Urban Neighborhood Redesign through Architecture 

 

9th Grade Breakthrough Cincinnati is a TRIBE!: Empowering Voices through STEAM - A 9th Grade Curriculum for Community Engagement and Innovation

 

8th Grade Algebra in Action: Product Research and Community Engagement with GE & P&G - A Comprehensive Algebra Curriculum for Real-World Application

 

8th Grade I/Voice: 8th Grade STEAM Curriculum - Leveraging Augmented Reality for Social Change

 

8th Grade Seismic Shift: Next Generation Earthquake Engineering - A NGSS-Aligned Curriculum

 

8th Grade Community-based Project to Design Storm Shelters: Integrated STEM curriculum 

 

7th Grade Data for Impact: A Social Change-Driven Statistics Math Curriculum

 

7th Grade Energy Dynamics: A Comprehensive Physics Curriculum for Understanding the Forces that Shape Our World

 

7th Grade Pi in the Sky 7th Grade STEM Curriculum: Coding Raspberry Pi Computers

 

6th Grade Redesigning Shade Structures 7th Grade STEM Curriculum: Collaboration with Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens

 

6th Grade “Breakthrough Ice Cream Shop” Applied Mathematics: Statistics, Algebra, & Geometry Curriculum

 

6th Grade MicroWorlds VR-AR: An Outside-In Approach to 6th Grade STEM - A Hands-on Curriculum Exploring Microbiology through VR-AR

 

6th Grade Math in Literature: Exploring 'Saving Wonder' Through Applied Mathematics - A Cross-Disciplinary Curriculum 

 

Breakthrough Cincinnati Pre-Service Teacher Professional Development Curricula

 

Inquiry in Practice 

Teacher Action Research Methodology for Preservice Teachers Curriculum 

    

Knowledge Co-Construction

Youth Participatory Action Research Methodology for Preservice Teachers Curriculum 

 

Decolonizing Our Curriculum: Co-Creating Learning with Learners for Preservice Teachers Curriculum 

 

Relational Learning & Ethic of Care

Holding S.P.A.C.E. Framework: Creating and Sustaining a Holding Environment In-Person & Online for Preservice Teachers Curriculum 

 

Creating and Sustaining a Relational Learning Community In-Person & Online for Preservice Teachers Curriculum 

 

Difficult Conversations: How to Create a Safe Space for Learners to Take Risks & Be Vulnerable for Preservice Teachers Curriculum

 

Innovative Teaching Pedagogies 

Following the Learner: Doing Project-based Learning for Preservice Teachers Curriculum

 

Breakthrough Collaborative (National) 

Language Arts, Reading, and Literacy Evaluation Consultant, 2019

University of Cincinnati High School Scholars Academy

STEM Curriculum Consultant, 2016 - 2017


 

FELLOWSHIPS

 

Doctoral Fellowship

Brandeis University's The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center 

Award $2,000

 

TALMA Teaching Fellowship

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation

Teaching Fellow, 2014

 

REALITY Teacher-Leadership Fellowship

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation 

Fellow, 2012

 

IU at Oxford Fellowship

Saïd Business School | University of Oxford

O'Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs | Indiana University

Undergraduate Fellow, 2010

 

SERVICE TO THE UNIVERSITY AND TO THE FIELD

Reviewer for the Journal of Participatory Research Methods, 2021 - Present

 

Reviewer for the Journal of Remedial and Special Education, 2016 - Present

Student Organization for Action Research, University of Cincinnati, Co-Founder and President, 2015 - 2020

Graduate Association for Teacher Assistants, University of Cincinnati, Member, 2014 - 2022


 

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA)

American Educational Research Association (AERA, Divisions C & K)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (Ohio AEYC, Cincinnati AEYC)

Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE)

Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE)

 

AWARDS

Covenant Pomegranate Prize for Emerging Educational Leader, finalist, 2023

 

Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center’s Upstander Award, 2022 

 

Teacher of the Year Award, Jarson Education Center, 2019

 

University of Cincinnati’s Master’s of Educational Studies Outstanding Student Award, 2016

 

University of Cincinnati’s Excellence in Teaching Award, nominee, 2016

 

Teach For America’s Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, nominee, 2015 & 2016

 

Teach For America’s National Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching, nominee, 2013

 

City of Bloomington’s Heart and Hand Award, 2007

IN MEDIA

“JEC develops curriculum for children’s resiliency during pandemic.” (2020). Cleveland Jewish News.

 

“STE(A)M Educator Allison Lester On Creating Space for Learning.” (2019). The Distiller

Podcast. Episode 42.

 

Digital Playscape, People’s Liberty Globe Grant (2019)

 

Holocaust and Humanity Upstander Award Press Release (2022)

Teaching
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Research
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Curriculum
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