Shawn Nealy-Oparah

Shawn Nealy-Oparah, M.Ed.

District Partnership Director

Shawn joins Partners with 15 years of teaching and leadership experience and brings a deep commitment to social justice and educational equity.

Originally from Los Angeles, she moved to the Bay Area and earned her B.A. in Black Studies and Political Science from San Francisco State University (SFSU). Her time at SFSU was a politicizing experience as she came to understand that the subject of education is often political. It was also here where she became steeped in culturally responsive teaching and innovative teaching practices. After graduating with a sense of purpose and a drive to become a teacher, she went on to receive her teaching credential and master’s in education from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her experience as an educator has included teaching social studies at the high school level in the Centinela Union High School District and Oakland and Fremont Unified School Districts. During her time as a teacher, she developed an annual Black History program, acted as a department head, served on the School Improvement Team, mentored student teachers, and most importantly loved her students deeply and pushed them to grow academically and emotionally. Shawn’s continual professional growth increased her interest in leadership, which led her to serve as a school leader in the Berkeley Unified School District.

Currently, Shawn is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at Mills College, where her graduate work uses youth participatory action research (YPAR) that centers on trauma-informed schools and practices to support schools in becoming a safe, trusting and healing learning environment for students impacted by trauma. Shawn also teaches a graduate course at Mills that focuses on trauma-informed leadership and schools.

Outside of work, Shawn enjoys performing West African drumming, video production, traveling, running, hiking, kayaking, biking, quiet walks, and spending time with family.

“Progressive, holistic education, engaged pedagogy is more demanding… I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer… education as the practice of freedom…education that connects the will to know with the will to become.” — bell hooks