To say that Dr. Samek is dedicated to the field of education is an understatement. She has taught students at every level during her career in education, starting as a middle school math teacher before moving to high school and later elementary school. Currently, Dr. Samek serves as Dean of the School of Education at George Fox University where she occasionally teaches an online course, but most enjoys mentoring faculty for future leadership positions and working on accreditation and assessment for the school. Dr. Samek takes pride in working to provide resources and remove barriers for teachers and students alike. One of her recent projects has been fostering peace and establishing a reconciliation curriculum for Quaker high schools in Kenya in collaboration with Kenyan educators. Teaching is not a one-way road—she insists that there is no one from whom you cannot learn a meaningful lesson.
How did you break into the field?
I started my career as a middle school mathematics teacher and just kept saying yes when the opportunity for leadership arose. My doctoral degree from the GSE was required for my position, and the things I learned and the people I met in the program have been resources all along the way.
What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
I would say that it is critical to learn in a community. The faculty and other candidates made the experience powerful.
What is the accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of?
Mentoring faculty into leadership positions and sending them out to do good work.
The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni, what does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
Impacting the community means that I am called to be of service anywhere I have time, expertise, or resources. These don’t have to be big things. Every year I lead a team of George Fox students on Serve Day. We work all over the Portland metro area letting people know we care about their lives. More visible ways I think educators can impact a community would be standing up and speaking truth when oppression is identified.
How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
My two major tasks are moving boulders and filling potholes, so my faculty can do outstanding work. It is my job to provide resources and make connections. At George Fox, we are very mindful that we are privileged people, and we serve wherever we are able. One recent project has been developing high school peace and reconciliation curriculum for Quaker high schools in Kenya in collaboration with Kenyan educators.
Did you have a favorite course/professor/project while at the GSE?
Hm! Of course my dissertation was my favorite project! I would say my favorite people were my dissertation committee members. They really pushed me to think and apply what I knew about preparing teachers. Ron Narode, Karen Noordhoff, Christine Chaille, Mike Shaughnessy, Bill Greenfield, and Swapna Mukhopadhyay.
What advice would you give students currently enrolled or recently graduated?
Learn as much as you can from everyone around you. There is no one from whom you cannot learn important ideas.