Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Michael Berson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl Ellerbrock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.


personal interpretive framework, service-learning course, middle grades education, relational care, self-authorship


This personal narrative autoethnography of my lived experiences as a middle-school service-learning course teacher has helped me solve a personal mystery and present an important perspective for the K-12 service-learning field. With an eye on revealing a unique service-learning classroom concept to educational leaders, enhancing middle level teacher education, and hopes of providing greater opportunities for advancing research on service learning in K-12 education, this study has also aided me in understanding my professional self and my subjective educational theory through a personal interpretive framework (Kelchtermans, 1993, 1999, 2009). Using autoethnography (Ellis, 2004; Ellis & Bochner, 2006) as a method to explore my own experiences as a middle school service-learning teacher and the perceptions of critical friends— colleagues, family members, and friends—who have been significant in my experiences, I am able to present an evocative personal narrative on what it means to be a service-learning teacher. Overarching findings from this study reveal that a middle grades service-learning teacher is a self-authored individual (Baxter Magolda, 1999, 2009; Kegan, 1994) who is committed to community-engaged education (Dewey, 1900, 1933), possesses a strong “I must” (Noddings, 2002b, p. 20) perspective on relational care, and are for development in servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1977; Sergiovanni, 1992; Bowman, 2005)