As an educator, I’ve come to rely on historical dates and special occasions to ground my classroom in the world around us – from the anniversary of the March on Washington to the election season gearing up. Over the last few weeks, Latino Heritage Month has been a powerful example of this – a chance to talk about culture, pride and the power of personal identity with the middle school students in my care.
Each day I bring my full identity to the classroom – as a Latina, a DePauw alum and a first generation college grad. My own Mexican family raised me to believe in hard work and respect for one’s self and others – principles which help me relate to many of my students and their parents.
I know that when my students come to school, they bring much of the same context with them. So while I teach science, we always start here. As I’m teaching physical and chemical reactions, Josue reminds the group that it’s easy to remember the concept because it’s like burning a tortilla on a comal. In a lesson about minerals, Fredy creates a tres leches cake to remember the components. As I walk around the class during independent work time, Sara asks if I am proud to be a Latina. In my affirmation, I affirm Sara herself, along with the other young women in my classroom.
Every day, students like Josue, Fredy, Sara and millions of others confront the inequalities that plague our education system. Too often, our Latino and low-income students don’t have access to opportunities that will empower them to reach their full potential. As a Latina in the education field, it is my duty to do something about this.
This Latino Heritage month I am celebrating alongside a group of students that have the ability to become leaders of our future. “Cultura es orgullo y orgullo es exito,” we say in my classroom, borrowing a line from Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority – “culture is pride and pride is success.” What does Latino Heritage Month mean to you?
Christina Mora is a 2013 Teach For America corps member and graduate of DePauw University. She currently teaches middle school science and Spanish at the Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies in Cincinnati.