Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teacher Education

Major Professor

Colleen P. Gilrane

Committee Members

Richard L. Allington, Susan M. Benner, Clara Lee Brown, Charles H. Hargis


The purpose of this study was to research the phenomenon of an individual who has moved from long term poverty into middle class. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with six participants who had experienced poverty in their childhood, attended and graduated college and obtained professional licenses to teach public school; these licenses gave them access to a teaching position with its commensurate middle class status and salary. Interviews began with the question, "Tell me about your childhood and how you became a teacher." Data analysis revealed four themes (and subthemes) in the narratives of these six participants: (1) durable family relationships (longstanding marriages, strong emotional bonds with family members); (2) presence of encouragers (friends and family members as encouragers, teachers and other respected adults as encouragers); (3) determination to be different (proactive determination, reactive determination); and (4) school-based opportunities for meaningful participation (meaningful relationships with teachers, meaningful activities). The experiences of these participants indicate that schools that wish to support poor children and youth in achieving their life goals might consider ways to help students make positive connections with adults in the building, support the families of these students, and offer meaningful activities in addition to academic programs. Further research would be useful investigating the experiences of persons who grew up in poverty and moved into middle class in different geographic regions, through different career paths, and by moving away from their childhood communities.

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