Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


Albert Cheng

Committee Member

Robert Maranto

Second Committee Member

Sarah McKenzie


English Language Learning, Pacific Islanders, Place attachment, Teacher quality


This dissertation consists of three chapters exploring my overarching research question: How does sense of place shape a teacher’s orientation to their profession? My first chapter empirically answers the question: Is there a relationship between place attachment and measured aspects of teacher quality? In an attempt to qualify the strength of bond between a teacher and his or her community, I adapted a place attachment instrument developed by Raymond, Brown, and Weber (2010). Each teacher is given a place attachment score informed by their responses on the 21-item survey. Next, I correlated these scores to other aspects of teacher quality including retention, loneliness, job satisfaction, self-efficacy, and instructional effectiveness. This paper is an exploration of place attachment with a limited sample size and measure of impact. While I will give a more in-depth overview of the findings, in preview, I find a weak relationship between a teacher’s place attachment and teacher quality metrics.

In my second chapter, I explore the ways in which teachers engage in the broader community. I conducted qualitative semi-structured interviews with 18 teachers from across the United States and various school types including traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools. These interviews informed three archetypical profiles of teachers in the community.

My final chapter is a mixed methods investigation of Marshallese English Language Learners (ELL) in Springdale public schools in Northwest Arkansas. This context provides a critical case study of the importance of community and its relationship with a student’s education. I employ a mixed methods research design leveraging student achievement data and focus interviews with district employees to answer two questions. First, what is the schooling experience of Marshallese ELL students in Springdale district? Second, how do Springdale teachers build relationships with the Marshallese community? Through the quantitative phase of the study, I find a persistent achievement gap between Marshallese ELL students and their ELL peers. The qualitative interviews reveal that the district’s approach to ELL instruction is geared towards Spanish-speakers, and cultural differences between Marshallese families and the dominant culture in Springdale create barriers in the classroom for students and teachers to overcome.