Robert Cooper, associate professor of education in the urban schooling division of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, has been selected to receive the Teacher of the Year Award from the Leadership for Social Justice SIG Awards Committee of the American Educational Research Association. Cooper, who directs the education studies minor program at UCLA, is co-faculty director of the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute. He has been recognized for his work on equity-minded school reform and the politics of education.

“This is an incredible honor,” said Cooper. “I think the hope of every educator is to make an impact on his or her students. To be recognized for that effort is not only a very rewarding feeling, but also very humbling.”

Cooper is currently working on a five-year project funded by the California Academic Partnership Program that looks at the ways schools can establish and foster a college-going culture for students of color.The project is currently in its third year. Cooper’s research team recently released a report focused on how educational expectations shape the educational opportunities available to students.

Building on this research, Cooper and his team will be working with six high schools across California this summer to host a 9th grade College-Going Boot Camp for approximately 300  low-income students of color at UCLA. Schools will work in concert with the camp to support this fall’s incoming 9th graders and their families in navigating their entrance into high school and the college preparation process.

Professor Cooper’s research interests also include the politics of education and the implementation and replication of equity-minded reform. He has served as a Sloan Public Policy Fellow at Brandeis University, and a CORO Public Affairs Fellow. He earned  his undergraduate degree in government at Pomona College, his master’s degree in public policy at Brandeis University and. his Ph.D. in education at UCLA. 

Professor Cooper’s greatest hope for his students at UCLA is “that they begin to see social justice as a tool for looking at why and how society — schools more specifically — are unjust for some. I also hope they will imagine the role they can play in reconstructing a more socially just and healthy social order.”