Engaged Scholars: Terri Teal Bucci

Photo of Terri Bucci working with young students.

Engaged Scholars: Terri Teal Bucci

June 2022

Engaged Scholars is a series highlighting Ohio State faculty who have made an impact in our communities through their community-engaged research and teaching.

Terri Teal Bucci, PhD
Associate Professor, Mathematics Education
Director, Ohio State Math Literacy Initiative (MLI)
Education Program Coordinator, Mansfield Campus

My professional endeavors have been focused on community-engaged scholarship since arriving at The Ohio State University in 1999 as an assistant professor of Mathematics Education. Following promotion to associate faculty in 2004, my community-based scholarship broadened; from embedded scholarship and teaching with K-5 teachers in a rural district, to interdisciplinary and international field work in Haiti. All along, I was able to act on opportunities to develop as a scholar of outreach, which provided the experiences to contribute to the field of Mathematics Education.

The current pursuit of knowledge demands interdisciplinary solutions requiring groups of people with a variety of expertise, experiences, and perspectives, organizing around an idea or problem. The voices of the community, all voices in the community, must be at the table. As the director of the Ohio State University Math Literacy Initiative, I have gained invaluable insight in the power of grassroots organizing. In my experience with and study of Bob Moses, his civil rights' work and his later work as founder of The Algebra Project, Inc., one thing was obvious: he practiced great humility. He showed me in these recent years that community-engaged scholarship requires listening, questioning, consensus-making and reflection. No single person can solve the complex issues of today's society. We need each other.

Why is it important to engage the community in your research and teaching?

My development as a scholar of community engagement continues to evolve and my adherence to the Paulo Freire's idea of praxis deepens. I have been, and continue to be, honored to work with many people in their pursuit of conscientization. I've seen the power of practicing Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed in rural U.S. districts, the countryside of Haiti, and large, urban districts of the Midwest. Each time, my faith in the collective to solve complex problems grows stronger. The strength of a community is in its identity; its uniqueness.

What led you to the path of engaged scholarship? How did you get started?

I believe strongly that knowledge must be accessible to all. If new knowledge is only shared through peer reviewed articles, how is that accessible? Engaged scholarship provides opportunities for shared field applications and experiences and that creates accessible knowledge. This belief converged with opportunity, research, and scholarship following the creation of The Ohio State University Haiti Empowerment Project. The Haiti Empowerment Project was funded through the Office of Outreach and Engagement in 2007 to provide professional development for primary and intermediate teachers in the countryside of Haiti. This began my continuing track of continued engaged scholarship.

How has your scholarship benefited from engaging with community partners?

I believe scholarship is most valuable when it provides opportunity and access to all members of a community through the expansion of ideas, and solutions to queries. I have refined my scholarship through the lens of shared experiences and reflective practices while engaging with various communities. I am not only a better scholar for this, I am a better world citizen.

What has been a highlight of your community engagement experience?

Knowledge is, indeed, power. I work in justice and community-based scholarship with teachers and academics from across the country to address access and inequities in K-16 mathematics education. I have seen the power provided preservice teachers when connected to a vertically-aligned program in justice-based math instruction. I have seen the power of grassroots and community-based engagement in mathematics education. I have seen students who once thought of themselves as unable to succeed in mathematics teach a professional development on math content and applications of instruction to classroom teachers. I have seen a professional development participant sit with arms crossed, daring us to show her something worthy of her time and attention, turn around and get a PhD in curriculum with a focus on math. I have seen how an entire school building can stay positive and inviting in the face of massive loss because of the strength of the community bonds. It is vital all citizens be provided opportunities to engage with content and experiences to build their understanding of the world. This is my motivation for the work I do. This is how I pursue justice, by demanding, through action, critical and expansive education that is accessible to all students in our schools.

What advice would you give to faculty and students who are interested in engaging the community in their scholarship?

Introduce yourself to the community. Try to understand the setting, history, leaders (official and unofficial) and always be transparent. Find out if there are connections between you and the community partners. Discuss your work to inform, not to sell. We build relationships by sharing stories. Share stories of past community-based work or stories about what got you interested in community-engaged scholarship. Don't force a connection if one is not there. If there isn't a clear connection between your work and the community-partners' interests or needs, consider other connections you might help to facilitate within the university: persist. It takes patience to develop relationships, patience and humility.

Sample Engaged Scholarship

Ethical Schools Podcasts

Math Literacy: Every student's right

Tedx Talk

Understanding old and new math: A metamorphosis

All Things with Ann Fisher

Feb 13, 2019

Challenges of Rural Education

AMLE practitioner journal

Weaving Math and Language Arts Literacy
Terri Teal Bucci and Lee McEwan,
Association of Middle Level Educators, January 2015