Carver Dual Language Elementary
Fifth- & Sixth-Grade Spanish Literacy
What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education.
While many factors influenced my decision to become an educator, perhaps the biggest was my own lack of cultural competence in my K-12 educational experience. I grew up in an affluent public school system outside of Chicago. While I did have access to the best resources and was fully prepared for the academics of college and beyond, my public school system failed to prepare me for the realities outside of academics. In college outside of my hometown, I quickly learned about the achievement gap in education, the privilege I had been enveloped in my whole life, and the harsh realities of racism, discrimination, etc. in our society. On top of that, I was able to do a lot of personal identity work throughout college and post-grad in multiple AmeriCorps programs (Jumpstart and Teach For America). I began to improve my Spanish and explore the Latinx side of my identity – a side that was ignored in my school system and only presented as an asset if you were learning Spanish as a second language to add another line to your resume. At first, I landed on journalism as my major in order to pursue a career in research, reporting or public relations in the field of education. However, I ultimately switched to pursuing a career in teaching Spanish because I realized change happens in the classroom first and the rest follows.
One of my greatest contributions to education has been my role in the elevation of the status of Spanish in my school community. My first year of teaching was my first year at Carver, when I was expected to teach writing in English and science in Spanish. Because of English dominance in our society and community, the majority of my Latinx students had internalized that Spanish was “stupid, uncool, and of lesser value” than English. Therefore, it was incredibly challenging to teach, facilitate student discourse, and assess in Spanish when students refused to speak it and had a lot of difficulties reading/writing it. Almost four years later, because of programmatic changes, students are now speaking Spanish both socially and in the classroom. Parents have commented that our students are now speaking more Spanish with them at home and truly leaving Carver as bilingual and biliterate scholars. This sociocultural competency is not something that is taught through one lesson or one unit – it is a constant affirmation of our students’ cultures, identities, and bilingual abilities. I do my best to evolve my strategies and practices, always looking for creative, new ways to affirm all of those aspects of our students. My hope is that my students take that cultural pride and competency into their homes, communities, and eventually our entire city.
Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school.
As previously mentioned, my first year of teaching was extra difficult because I was teaching in my second language, which also happened to be a language the students did not want to learn in. When other staff members and I realized the vast majority of our students were refusing to work in Spanish because it was difficult for them, we began to explore why. We analyzed how our school was not setting students up for success in grades 3-6 because while math and science were taught in Spanish, reading and writing were not. Students were expected to access the rigorous content but were never explicitly instructed in Spanish literacy. How could we assess them on their content knowledge in science and math in fourth or sixth grade if they were all at a second-grade reading level in Spanish? The Dual Language Team and I realized that Carver’s students were not receiving daily Spanish literacy instruction after second grade and that it was negatively impacting their literacy, academic vocabulary, and overall achievement in math and science. For that reason, in the spring of 2017, I introduced the idea of the innovative position I now hold: Spanish literacy teacher. Now, nearly three years later, every class in the upper-grade levels receives daily Spanish literacy instruction.