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James Liou
2008 Alumni Classroom Fellow
Boston, Massachusetts


Photo of James Liou, Classroom Fellow
video James Liou explains the most important lesson he has learned as a teacher.

Bio/Overview: James Liou is a teacher-on-assignment through a peer assistance program in the Boston Public Schools, which provides targeted, collegial support to other teachers in their classrooms across the city. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Northern Virginia, Liou is his parents’ second child. His father emigrated from Taiwan as a scholarship student in engineering and his mother came to the U.S. from Malaysia to have a risky surgical operation, one that still causes a cousin of Liou’s to tear up in recollection. From Green Acres elementary to his secondary education at McLean High School, Liou eventually made his way through the College of William and Mary as a history major. He feels fortunate to have received a strong public education and has been committed to continuing that tradition. Liou spent the first two years of his teaching life as a wilderness therapeutic counselor for adjudicated youth at the edge of North Carolina’s Uwharrie National forest. Moving to the Boston area, Liou taught history for one year at Concord Academy and then made his way to his specific interest in teaching—the urban context of the Boston Public Schools. Liou taught for four years at the Boston Day and Evening Academy, a competency, diploma-granting high school for over-aged students. He then was hired to develop and teach the senior capstone course at the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA), one of Boston’s small pilot schools.

Educational Values/Philosophy: Liou believes that good teaching relates, in essence, to attentiveness. It relates to an understanding that every year matters, every day matters, every hour matters, and every student matters. He believes that attention to detail, and the responsiveness, creativity and flexibility that this requires, crosses the many areas of responsibility a good teacher manages—ranging from subject area expertise, to an ability to draw the best out of colleagues, to the realm of classroom instruction and student relationships.

Achievements: Liou earned National Board certification in his content field and also served on the Standards Revision Committee to revise and rewrite the Social Studies/History standards. He was a finalist to serve as the 12th grade teacher representative on the National Assessment Governing Board and was also recently named as a member of the Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In the Boston area, he has been involved in building capacity and institutional interest in teacher voice and teacher leadership initiatives through maintaining an independent website called The Teaching Pulse, working with the district Office of Teacher Development and Advancement and in a democracy movement within the Boston Teachers Union known as BTUVotes.

Leadership Experience: The hallmarks of Liou’s work with his BCLA students included the focus on community leadership, participatory action research initiatives with community-based partners, and the pride his students had in writing their 40-page research papers and completing their digital portfolios. Besides the leadership experiences with NBPTS and the recent opportunity with the Gates Foundation, Liou also currently directs the Boston Public Schools K-12 Civics initiative through curriculum writing, outreach to community partners and providing professional development to the district’s 12th grade civics teachers. Most recently, he has been supporting the Boston Teachers Union to increase its involvement in professional issues beyond ‘the contract’, most notably through the establishment of a joint labor-management committee to oversee the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the Boston Public Schools.

Affiliations: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, Boston Teachers Union, BTUVotes, American Federation of Teachers.

Education: Liou received his Bachelor’s degree in history from William and Mary, and went on to earn his Masters in teaching at Brown University.

Areas of Interest/Expertise:

  • Teacher leadership
  • History/Social Studies and civics education
  • Community and school partnerships
  • Union democratization efforts
  • Peer Assistance and Review programs
  • Education issue blogging
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Last Modified: 08/14/2012