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Spotlight on Walden // Mar 29, 2019

Part of the Revolution: A Conversation With Erin Gruwell

By Dr. Ward Ulmer, Interim President of Walden University

While in Tampa, Florida, for Walden’s 61st Commencement Ceremony, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with our keynote speaker, Erin Gruwell, author of “The Freedom Writers Diary.”

When she first began teaching English in the 1990s, Gruwell was in charge of 150 low-performing students from underserved inner-city communities plagued by violence. An inspiring educator known for her unique teaching method, she helped her students tell their stories as a way to recognize and embrace the power of writing to overcome adversities they shared. Her students went on to become high school graduates, published writers, and catalysts for change. Now, as founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, Gruwell helps teachers implement innovative lessons in their own classrooms that promote overcoming adversity through education.

Gruwell and I had a thoughtful conversation about the challenges today’s educators face in schools and communities, including how to make classrooms inclusive. She also shared her journey to creating the Freedom Writers Foundation, her view of education as a civil rights issue, and ideas on how to retain new and veteran teachers and help them succeed.

Watch my interview with Gruwell to learn how she believes the Freedom Writers story mirrors Walden’s story.