Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Human Services

Advisor

Tina Jaeckle

Abstract

In the wake of increasing community disasters such as hurricanes, neighborhood violence, and terrorist attacks, schools are usually deemed places where youth can find safety and stability. Research about community trauma related to the role of teachers and schools has predominantly focused on younger populations, concerned about disturbances in their developmental processes. School teachers' responsibilities related to these community disasters have also increased and now include supporting their traumatized students. However, there has been limited attention on the direct effect of community traumas on the teachers who work and live in affected districts. The construct of shared trauma describes this duality of roles. For African American teachers, racial trauma plays a role in their everyday lives and might affect their behaviors and responses to tragic events. Critical race theory and Vygotsky's sociocultural theory formed the framework for this phenomenological study, which explored the experiences of 6 female African American teachers who had experienced community disasters. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed using an enhanced version of the Colaizzi 7-step analysis method. Key findings were that race played only a limited role for the teachers when significant traumas occurred in their communities. Also, the experiences they described were indicative of vicarious trauma, which is inconsistent with the construct of shared trauma. This study contributes to social change by informing educational, political, and social institutions about the needs of teachers in the wake of community disasters and how those needs could be conceptualized as vicarious trauma for purposes of planning preventive and concurrent interventions for teachers.