Mary Poplin

Professor Emerita of Education, Claremont Graduate University (Advisory Board Chair)

Mary S. Poplin, PhD is a native Texan. She earned her doctorate in education from the University of Texas and until 2022 served as professor in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, where she is now emerita. Her work spans K-12 to higher education and has included public classroom education, research, and administration. Mary began her career teaching elementary school and special education and has, at various times, served in administrative roles as dean and as director of teacher education.

From 2005-09 Poplin and eight colleagues studied 30 highly effective teachers in nine low performing urban K-12 schools in Los Angeles County. The resulting 100-page study describes the characteristics, teaching strategies, and classroom dynamics of high-performing teachers and their students’ perceptions of the reasons for their success.

A fourth-grader summarized the point of Poplin’s research in three sentences: “When I was in first grade and second grade and third grade, when I cried, my teachers coddled me. When I got to Mrs. T’s room she told me to suck it up and get to work. I think she’s right, I need to work harder.”

Poplin agrees: high-performing teachers in the tradition of Jaime Escalante (immortalized in the film Stand and Deliver) tend to be strict, determined, disciplined, and absolutely convinced that their students have enormous potential. Discussing Escalante’s achievements, Poplin noted that “all teachers can learn to think more as he did about his students’ potential and learn to use the intense methods he used to teach them to high levels of proficiency.”

Academically, Poplin has explored the intellectual trends prevailing in various academic disciplines: the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. She has also worked on applying the intellectual, social, and psychological principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview as they apply to higher education.

Poplin is a dedicated communicator outside the classroom. A frequent speaker in Veritas Forums throughout the country, Poplin also edited the Learning Disability Quarterly from 1979-84. After systematically studying the educational practices at four public schools in southern California for a year, she wrote the well-regarded white paper: ”Voices from the Inside: A Report on Schooling from Inside the Classroom″ (1992).

Her work has intersected with the study of religious experience. She described her transformative experience working with Mother Teresa in Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service (2008). Later, she examined four major worldviews, exploring their implications for human behavior and evidence for their truth in Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews (2014).