UBB Volunteer Spotlight

Meet our Volunteer, Sylvia Bagley!

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When did you start volunteering as an instructor at UBB?

I supervised two UBB instructors (my graduate students Ryan Mateo Sharnbroich and Cally Ingram) as they were teaching a class in Winter 2017 and earning independent study credits at UW for reflecting on this work, and came out to visit. Then I submitted my own idea for teaching and started last Winter!

Why did you become an instructor with UBB?

UBB is one of only a few organizations across the nation that facilitates high-quality, post-secondary learning opportunities and college credits for incarcerated men. This is a unique opportunity to bring educational opportunities where they are most needed and desired, but where funding is rarely available.

Why do you enjoy teaching at UBB?

Being a UBB volunteer and instructor allows me to work with adult students who are eager for high-quality educational opportunities, and prepared to dive into rigorous work. I love seeing the shift in my students’ perception of what lifelong learning and peer instruction can look like.

What has being a volunteer meant to you? How has this experience changed you?

Being a UBB volunteer has been an invaluable opportunity to work with individuals who likely weren’t well-served by their schools as children, and to provide them with the high-quality education they need and deserve. Teaching on the inside is one of the most direct forms of reparation and social justice I can think of: it impacts not just the men themselves but their families and loved ones on the outside.

What is your favorite memory of UBB?

My favorite memory is watching my students enter the classroom doorway each week with a smile, ready to learn and engage in rich discussion!

What are your current volunteer/instructor projects with UBB?

At WSR, I'm teaching a 10-week course on Coaching & Mentoring Adult Learners. This is a different version of a class I've taught for many years in the College of Education with classroom teachers, but the emphasis in WSR is on life coaching and conversational skills. Students are learning how to effectively listen, paraphrase, ask open questions, and help move coachees through a goal-setting plan. They each have selected a partner to practice with, and meet with this person once a week to engage in a coaching conversation. Students are focused on helping their coachees build their own capacity for meaningful change, rather than providing solutions or advice.

At MSU, I am working with an awesome team of educators — Maxine Alloway, Cally Ingram, and Ryan Sharnbroich — to craft and deliver short (3-hour) modules around learning and leadership. We are engaging students in conversations about what is learning, what are major learning theories, how do we design impactful lessons, and how do we facilitate lifelong learning experiences with students of all ages, both inside and out.  The course is helping students to reflect on their own histories with education, and discover how they learn best. They are honing their leadership skills as they learn to listen actively and engage students from diverse walks of life. Some comments from students, in response to sentence stems on what they've gained from the modules so far:

"I learned that... even at my age I am still teachable."

"I discovered… that I am capable of effective communication."

"I am beginning to wonder... if school is really for me; I think it is."

"I discovered… how excited I am about teaching others."

"I now realize… that there’s a lot more than I thought to teaching and that you never stop learning."

"I discovered… getting someone else’s perspective can help you understand something better."

"I discovered… everyone has a desire to learn and connect. I am still confused about… why this isn’t taught to us sooner."


We are so grateful to have Sylvia as one of our volunteer instructors for both WSR and MSU. We are also so excited to see how her Coaching & Mentoring Adult Learners course this quarter is going, and her collaboration with other educators to create modules on leadership and learning skills. We cannot thank her enough for her hard work and dedication that she puts into her courses, as well as her compassion and love for teaching!

Want to be an extraordinary volunteer like Sylvia? Fill out an online application through our website, and join our volunteer team!