Debbie Sonu

Associate Professor
Wednesdays 3-5pm

Debbie Sonu is an Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and doctoral faculty at The Graduate Center. She is the program coordinator for the Adolescent Social Studies Program and a mentor for the Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP).


Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University
M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University
M.A. from the Center X Teacher Education Program at the University of California, Los Angeles
B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley


Dr. Sonu teaches courses in the Childhood and Adolescent Education Programs, as well as doctoral courses at the Graduate Center.

  • Social Studies Methods and Curriculum Development in Elementary Education (CEDC 722)
  • Clinically Rich Fieldwork & Supervision (CEDC 772, 773, 774)
  • Intensive Study of Teaching Diverse Learners in Social Studies: Methods I & II (SEDC 715/215)
  • UrbEd 751: Doctoral Seminar

Dr. Sonu’s scholarly interests include curriculum theory as it relates to urban education, politically oriented teaching in public schools, and youth and childhood studies. She uses qualitative research to examine educational experiences and seeks to understand how teaching and learning in public school classrooms can serve as vehicles for racial and economic justice.

Her work has been published in Race, Ethnicity and Education, Curriculum Inquiry, Journal of Teacher Education, and the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, among others. Her dissertation, …(in)Justice for All?: Brooklyn Youth and the Question of Social Justice, explored youth performances and the complications of teaching for social justice, and received the 2011 Division B Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award and the 2010 Critical Educators for Social Justice SIG Distinguished Dissertation of the Year Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA).


Sonu, D. & Bellino, M. (2018). Stranger-making as difference: Childhood memories of belonging and exclusion by undergraduates of color. Race, Ethnicity and Education, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2018.1497960

Sonu, D. & Marri, A. (2018). The hidden curriculum in financial literacy: Economics, standards, and the teaching of young children, in Financial literacy for children and youth (2nd ed), edited by Thomas A. Lucey & Kathleen Cooter (pp. 8-26). New York: Peter Lang.

Sonu, D. & Aguilar-Moreno, L. (2017). When poetry visits you: Liberating the human spirit in second graders. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 30(2), p. 24-29.

Quinn, M. & Sonu, D. (2017). Following pebbles by moonlight: Elementary students shed light on power, peace, and violence in response to the classic tale Hansel and Gretal. Taboo, 16(1), p. 55-72.

Sonu, D. (2016). A young adult’s forgotten memories of a social justice high school education: Difficult knowledge and the impossibilities of schooling and research. Curriculum Inquiry.

Sonu, D. & Benson, J. (2016). The quasi-human child: How normative conceptions of childhood enabled neoliberal school reform in the United States. Curriculum Inquiry, 46(3), p. 230-247.

Sonu, D. & Gorlewski, J. (eds.) (2016) Special Issue of Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies entitled, “Unheard Learners: Children and Youth Experiences in Neoliberal Schools”

Snaza, N., Sonu, D., Truman, S., & Zaliwska, Z. eds, (2016). Pedagogical matters: New materialisms and curriculum studies. New York: Peter Lang.

Sonu, D. & Snaza, N. (2015). The fragility of ecological pedagogy: Elementary Social Studies standards and possibilities of new materialism, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, p. 258-277.

Sonu, D. & S. Hughes. (2015). The Youth Cultural Milieu, in M.F. He, B. Schultz & B. Schubert (Eds.), Guide to Curriculum in Education (p. 383-388). New York: Sage.

Chong, K., Davies, I., Epstein, T., Peck, C., Peterson, A., Sears, A., & Sonu, D. (2015). Education for the nation?: Teaching and learning within and across nations in a global age. Hampshire: UK: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Sonu, D. (2014). For the Sake of Diplomacy: The Educational (im)Possibility of Teaching Peace by New York City Elementary School Teachers. In R. Naqvi & R. Smits (Eds.), Framing Peace: Thinking about and Enacting Curriculum as “Radical Hope” (pp. 168-180). New York: Peter Lang.

Sonu, D. (2013). Friendship, Education, and Justice Teaching: The Professional Development of Two Teacher-Friends, Teaching and Learning: Journal of Natural Inquiry and Reflective Practice, 27(1), p. 19-34.

Sonu, D. (2012). Illusions of compliance: Performing the public and hidden transcripts of social justice education in neoliberal times, Curriculum Inquiry, 42(2), p. 240-259.

Sonu, D., Oppenheim, R., Epstein, S. & Agarwal, R. (2012). Taking responsibility: Using positioning theory to understand who’s responsible for a social justice education, Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice, (7)2, p. 175-189.


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant, 2018-2020, $60,734, Co-PI
Entitled, “A Multi-Site Study on Teacher Conceptualizations of Childhoods: Memories, Artefacts, and Cultural Tropes”