Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Tricia Kress

Second Advisor

Wenfan Yan

Third Advisor

Esta Montano


This dissertation blends portraiture with constructivist grounded theory to bring to the forefront the voices and experiences of English as a Second Language teachers in low incidence districts in Massachusetts. By describing and exploring common themes in these teachers' experiences within their respective low incidence districts, this study examines how the three ESL teachers' professional identities and agency are enabled or limited by the district and school structures. The teachers' experiences were analyzed on the micro (student), meso (school/district) and macro (policy) levels using data including interviews, observations, field journals, and artifacts.

In response to the broad question of what constitutes the professional identities of ESL teachers in low incidence districts, I learned that my participants used their unique positions on the margins in their districts to their advantage by establishing an elevated status as the ESL experts. This position of power enabled my participants to enact their separate agencies, as informed by their different professional identities, to impact change within their districts to better the educational experiences of their English Language Learners. Each participant was able to, whether through a more activist stance or a more subtle approach, effect change on the micro and meso levels in her district. As I am an ESL teacher in a low incidence district myself, in meeting my participants and learning of their stories, I experienced a significant shift in my own mentality as to the extent of my power and agency at my place of employment. I have also come to realize the importance of fit between the district and its agents. Together with my fellow ESL teachers, I continue down a path where we must keep advocating for necessary changes so that our students will receive an adequate and equitable access to education.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.