About The Teach Out


Icy & Sot

The Teach Out was founded in May of 2020, weeks after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a few months after the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many of us into feelings of isolation and disconnection from one another.

Its foundational principles are three fold.

1. Knowledge is not a commodity. It is a public good and should be accessible to all who seek it.

2. Human connection and justice ARE possible, and powered by people.

3. justice efforts, indeed any efforts to better our communities, include at their core... endeavors of human symbolic action. 


Symbolic action involves humans using language, symbols, bodies, places/spaces, and movement to build an architecture necessary to sustain just and free communities. For everyone.

The Teach Out will involve a number of projects, from weekly study gatherings, to monthly book readings, to in depth retreat gatherings for study, communal intentions, and reflection, to maintaining an always growing catalogue of events and resources. These will work to support and open the aperture of knowledge & action around anti-racist, community based justice efforts. It will also take as its mission an increased accessibility for learning, action, and education, for all, always.


These efforts intersectionally converse with movements around disability, LGTBQIA+ issues, gender, socio-economic class status, carceral conditions, geographic inequality and land dispossession struggle, immigrant justice, and more - often, all refracted through our work breaking barriers to educational access and informational literacy.

In the spirit of teach ins formed in the mid 1960s, born of community-based desire for change bringing together groups inside an institution to discuss and learn about a matter of importance on a complicated (often social & political) issue, The Teach Out hopes to model its work.


Yet, instead of teaching INside an institution, The Teach Out hopes to shatter the boundaries of one institution or space as its site; to rupture the notion of one place or space as the site of knowledge. This project teaches beyond walls, borders, boundaries, and doors of any one school, institution, office, or city hall. It will meet in Zoom-land, or in public space, wherever all willing and ready participants may find access.

Participants may come having pursued a formal educational degree, or not. They may come with previous knowledges, or without. They may come with a marker of former incarceration, or without. They may come with a documented immigration status, or without. They may come with specific questions, or just with a curious desire to think more about the world around them.


All are welcome. Always.

There's much to do, together. Much to learn. Let us begin.

About Heather, the founder & director

Dr. Heather Ashley Hayes (she/her) is a scholar, writer, organizer, and educator of over twenty years. Her scholarly work is interested in social implications of public discourse practice; specifically, how humans use symbols to make meaning and address problems of common concern within their communities. She holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota in Communication Studies, with additional focus in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa. She also holds a State Board of Education secondary teaching certification in speech communication and social studies (general, grades 6-12).


Her research centers on violence, race & gender, justice, and resistance. Her work is particularly interested in the intersection of domestic sociopolitical landscapes with dynamics of global violence, colonialism, and war. She additionally engages work about histories and circulations of violence as they relate to race, rhetorical practice, and securitization in public discourse, film & media, as well as in militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world. Her final research area is in rhetoric and neuroscience, focusing on how our brains function and what neuroscience tells us about how we learn as well as how we are persuaded, especially in our current "always on" bombardment of multimodal media and public discourse.

Heather is currently appointed in the Department of Rhetoric & Media Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA. Her first book, Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan) dropped in 2016, joining a number of other article, review, and chapter length pieces. She has presented work across the US, Middle East/North Africa, and Europe to audiences in both academic spaces and far outside of the university.

Since COVID's impacts emerged, Heather's been featured on Vice News and in multiple popular press publications, is working on her second (and third) book projects (with one due out in early 2023), and just completed an article for Rhetoric & Public Affairs' upcoming special journal issue on rhetoric and violence, adding to a robust list of academic publications.


Heather also writes and sometimes publishes poetry; she loves dogs, Italian food, books, and - with time to read for pleasure - finds solace in the writings of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ross Gay, and Joan Didion. She savors being outdoors in the sunshine and travels prolifically as part of her work. In 2019, she faced a most serious battle in the form of an orange-sized brain tumor diagnosis, giving her a front row seat to learn, up close and personally, about the extent of massive structural health care inequity and disability injustice in the US - especially for women and people of color. She works to advocate, as a survivor now living without sight in one eye, for communities of patients & families living and struggling through major health diagnoses. In addition, she organizes with local houseless advocacy in Portland as well as numerous projects fighting for decarceral justice throughout Oregon, Washington, and beyond. After her surgery, she began a MA graduate certificate in neuroscience with Harvard University EdX, a degree she is scheduled to complete in August of 2022.

As an educator, Heather feels privileged in her career to have taught at institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges in the Pacific Northwest of the US to a large public high school in South Texas and many spaces in between, from refugee camps in the Middle East/North Africa to US prisons. She has worked with lots of students at various stages of their educational journeys and has been honored to receive a number of distinctions for that work, the most significant of which are the successes of amazing students & colleagues she is humbled to share creative, intellectual, and justice spaces with, every day.


Heather, crossing into a Syrian refugee encampment, summer 2014


what students and attendees say...

"The seeds are here, they're us, inside. People just don't know. These programs and gatherings are like water and light. We, our communities, all of us, grow because of them. It's transformation. The concrete doesn't matter anymore. It's all the difference in the world. We are seen. This class was the difference between the light, and the dark, and Heather guided us, believed in us, and never doubted we could do it."
--Incarcerated former student  
"The Teach Out has expanded how I think of community; of being in community with one another, what we owe people we are in community with, and how we can better be one another. Particularly coming out of a more isolating time in the pandemic, I am amazed at how hard being in community can be... In all our thinking through and unlearning ways of being in during the pandemic, having an intentional space invites us to confront how we do community. And with Heather at the helm, it's all the better."
--Teach Out retreat attendee, 2022
"Heather is world class...she pushed us out of our comfort zones and taught us how to engage critically in conversations... I learned so much about myself, my peers and what a discussion-based space has the potential to do."
--Former student, 2017

Attendees reflecting on their time after the first inaugural RetreatOut, July 2021. RetreatOuts are weekend long Teach Out colloquia filled with seminars, study, and reflection alongside meals, community, and time in the outdoors together. 

"Heather Hayes is an incredible professor and anyone who learns with her will value her presence...She goes above and beyond. Her focus on race and gender is especially relevant in today’s society, where issues of social justice could not be more timely or important. Her years of devoted students should be the sign of her great work..."
--Former student, 2014
"The passion in this program is evident. The model is something I have never experienced in all my years in school, not in any system, or anything. I learn so much. It means so much. This has helped me build something, something I can work from as I think about what my life can be."
               --Formerly incarcerated attendee  

Some FAQs...

1. How do I get in touch with Heather or The Teach Out?

          A: You can email Heather here. Or, feel free to send along a comment to The Teach Out here. All comments, suggestions, and contact is welcome!

2. Do the gatherings of The Teach Out cost anything?

          A: As of now, no! There is a commitment in this project to make classes and gatherings accessible to all, and cost is a significant barrier for some. For those who want to support the work of The Teach Out, they can donate to Heather's work via Venmo: @HeatherAHayes. There is a long term goal, and dream, to expand a public, open education space like this - one Heather has been dreaming for a long time! - to make it a much larger scale project including more long term courses and gatherings, retreats, and substantial outreach for attendees and students, youth, marginalized communities, and more. That would eventually take funding, whether it be grants or donations or other forms of support.

          For now, anyone can join any aspect of The Teach Out's work, anytime, all are welcome. Knowledge is not a commodity, a commitment The Teach Out will always embrace. Those who can support this work, it is gratefully welcome. One last note: The Teach Out has used its #peoplepower and resources, so far, to both donate books to prisons and to compensate guest scholars invited to speak and consult on Teach Out projects. We hope to do much more of this in the future....

3. What if I haven't finished the readings/texts for a particular week or gathering? Can I still attend?

          YES. Come and share, listen, and/or be part of the community discussion and activity. Our gathering may center on that particular reading or text, as a grounding point. Yet, the gathering will traverse more space, and more conversational terrain. So: always join, if you'd like!

4. Will The Teach Out host in person gatherings, and not just Zoom? Sometimes I learn best in person!

          A: Yes! We have had two in person retreats and a few in person weekly gatherings. The Teach Out dreams about one day (see above!) hosting more Teach Out retreats (weekend long events) and certainly to hold gatherings and classes, live and in person. More are on the horizon! We plan to have several events, in several cities, for unit six, in person. This will depend on the safety for all gatherers (considering shifting  COVID-19 protocols, for now) and the availability of public space open and free for all attendees. Stay tuned for more info to come!

5. I don't have a college degree. Or, I didn't finish high school. Or, I don't have a formal education. Or, I'm newly out of prison. Or, I'm much older than the traditional "student." I'm not sure I have anything to contribute to the gatherings. Should I come...?

          A: YES. 100% YES. Education doesn't happen only in college classrooms, or in high school classrooms. And, as we learn, the education that DOES happen in high school and college classrooms often leaves behind significant parts of our history, the important stories of some of us, and substantial parts of how the lands on which we currently live, and systems in which we currently are bound, came to be governed, made, and understood.

          Learning can happen in nature, in libraries, in city buses, in airplanes or on hikes; it can happen over Zoom, on street corners, or in line at the DMV. We learn in many spaces and places, and we learn from each other, in community. This is the spirit of The Teach Out. Everyone is part of the conversation, the community, and the process of better negotiating how we build and know our history as well as the ways we pave paths to justice, freedom, and community. JOIN US. Everyone is welcome, always, anytime.

6. Is there any reason someone wouldn't be able to come to The Teach Out?

          A: As noted above, NO.

          OK, well - there is one reason. Don't harass others. That's one thing we can't tolerate in The Teach Out community. We gather to learn, unlearn, grow, and forge new connections. If someone demonstrates a threat or danger to any other member, they would not be welcome back. It's not nice; don't do it.