Teaching is a Political Act


At the time of her ignite talk at Agency by Design Oakland’s year-end event on Saturday, May 4, 2019, Julia Cheng was the 6th Grade Science Teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School. Julia began her talk by sharing her personal story of change in her professional career as a teacher and the changes that were also happening in her wider community.


“I've had a really weird year. This year I quit a job, I started a new job, and next year I'm going to be at a third school. In the middle of all of this, there was a teacher strike. So, all this transition meant this year I was thinking a lot about community, and school, and our roles in schools. I want to talk about centering our work in community.”

In the midst of personal change and district-wide change, Julia realized the importance of centering herself and her philosophies around teaching. From her experience, Julia realized that centering one’s teaching practice allows one to shift from individual to community-focused practice because:

“...when you find [your purpose in teaching], then you can find more connections between yourself, your community and your curriculum.”

Watch Julia’s inspiring Ignite Talk below! And follow the #pictureofpractice hashtag to see more Ignite Talks and leadership from our 2018-2019 Teacher Fellows.


“We are preparing students for an uncertain future. For me, the most important skill students need is to know how to learn. I believe maker education provides those skills and the imperative to design for community.”

Julia was raised in Mississippi by Taiwanese immigrant parents, but has lived all over from the DC metro to Kenya. She is a science teacher at Elmhurst United Middle School in Oakland, CA. She is passionate about neuroscience, community, metacognition, and feelings.