up close podcast with sara sneed

The Up Close Podcast explores issues of equity, opportunity, and excellence in public education. Hosted by The NEA Foundation President and CEO Sara A. Sneed, she talks with educators, policy experts, and other passionate voices about the most urgent issues in public education and our shared responsibility to deliver a quality public education for all students. The Up Close Podcast is a journey through the reimagining of public education to create a more fair, equitable, and just system in America.

Season Two Episodes

May 20 – Dr. Marlee Bunch is an educator, author, and creator of resources and tools for creating culturally competent classroom lessons, known as the un/HUSH Framework. Her work is focused on uplifting marginalized voices, unlearning biases, and fostering connection through storytelling. Dr. Bunch brings over 16 years of teaching experience to her work, with a deep commitment to providing equitable and rigorous instruction to all students.

February 21 – Albert Sykes is a Jackson, Miss. native and the executive director of the Institute for Democratic Education in America, where he works in conjunction with students, educators, families, and communities to advocate and build capacity for education equity and racial justice. Sykes is a community organizer, education and civil rights advocate, and mentee of civil rights leader Bob Moses, who founded the Algebra Project. In this episode, Albert talks about inequalities within public education in Mississippi and the role of community advocacy in improving conditions in public schools.

January 10 – Natosha Daniels is a parent, chief systems navigator for the Round Rock Black Parents Association, and expert in grassroots organizing and parent-led advocacy in public education.

In this episode, Natosha describes how her background as an educator led her to pursue a doctoral program in education policy and planning. She also shares about her ongoing work with Black parent-led movements, how such movements are pushing back against structural inequities, and the importance of cultivating a practice of freedom dreaming. 

Season One Episodes

September 14 – Natalie Johnson-Berry is an award-winning, veteran educator, who has brought an equity focus and spirit of affirmation to her classroom and the broader community over her 25-year career. As an expert in restorative justice and culturally responsive teaching practices, Natalie and Sara discuss why these approaches to public education are critical to ensuring access to a high-quality education for all students.

May 18 – Monica Washington and Takeru (TK) Nagayoshi join Sara to discuss the importance of honest education and how it benefits an increasingly diverse student population. Together, they dive deep into how honest education can help educators provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of history and how it can lead to more equitable education for all students.

April 29 -Samantha Greenleaf, a Texas educator and administrator, joins Sara to discuss the urgent need for all educators to teach with an anti-racist lens. They discuss how racism affects students of color on a systemic level and the power to reverse these negative trends through collective knowledge building, advocacy inside and beyond the classroom and outreach to the community. They also shine a light on Educators In Solidarity, a non-profit that convenes educators in the central Texas region in the fight for institutional change.

February 6 – Becky Pringle, a 30-year educator and president of the National Education Association (NEA), joins Sara to discuss solutions for recruiting and retaining talented educators at a time when so many are looking for the exit door. Join the conversation to hear why educators want to exit the profession and how we can all better support those who are key to the foundation of our democracy.

November 2 – Jane Quinn, a matriarch of community schools, joins Sara to discuss the tremendous impact this strategy has had across the country. They discuss how thoughtful investments and partnerships can help transform a struggling school into one where students thrive. Tune in for a rich conversation on the possibilities of public education when the needs of the whole child are being met.

August 23 – Fresh off of a field study trip in Peru, Michael Dunlea, an award-winning educator, and Sara explore what a global education can mean to a classroom and a community. Listen to their reflections on the importance of educators teaching through a global lens and how it impacts a student’s understanding of his or her empathy for others with different backgrounds.

June 2 – Dr. Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, knows what ingredients form the recipe for a quality public education system. He and Sara discuss how to build the capacity of educators and schools to create safe learning environments and ensure. They offer unique ways educators and schools can meet the needs of students and families to help them succeed in the classroom.

April 28 – Immigrant educators bring a unique perspective to public education and often make a powerful impact on their students and school communities. Alhassan Susso, a native of the Gambia and the 2019 New York Teacher of the Year educator, has done just that in his Bronx, NY high school. He and Sara discuss his incredible journey from Africa to the United States and what inspired him to give back to the next generation. They dissect how Susso uses relationships-building to lead his students down the path to graduation and how other educators can learn from his success.

April 5 – A strong public education system is the backbone of a functioning democracy. Join host Sara Sneed as she and other leading voices look Up Close at the nation’s public education system and discuss the amazing opportunities to reshape it into one that is more fair, equitable and just for all.