Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Pat Daniel Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Danielle Dennis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Jacobs, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.


autoethnography, qualitative methods, narrative, illness, identity, teacher identity


This autoethnographic study focuses on changing identity after experiencing a rare disease. The purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which identity shifts during an after a rare illness. Three research questions guided this study: How and in what ways has my identity as a teacher shifted as a result of my experience with major illness? How and in what ways have other aspects of my identity shifted as a result of my illness? How can the writing of my autoethnography influence the healing process and my understanding of identity?

The participant/researcher of this study was hospitalized with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, and subsequently lost her position as a high school teacher and was forced to find a position at a new school. Using Gee’s (2000/2001) concept of identity as an analytic lens, the researcher developed a narrative of her journey from illness back into the classroom. After analysis, she identified a transition from a traditional, knowledge-giver teacher role to the role of teacher as a facilitator. Another finding was the role confidence played in the recovery process. The researcher then offers suggestions for further research regarding teachers who return to the classroom after illness.

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