Friday, January 06, 2017

Academia Cuauhtli Gets a Site Visit from FWISD Board Chair and Superintendent

We had a wonderful meeting yesterday evening on January 5, 2016 with Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) Board Chair Jacinto Ramos, and FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner who visited us, Nuestro Grupo—the community-based organization to which a number of us belong—to learn about our community-city-district partnership that administers the Academia Cuauhtli Saturday school at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC) located at 600 River in Austin, Texas.
See KLRU/PBS 2-minutes segment titled, Academia Cuauhtli Works to Bridge History with Language.  You can also read a published piece on Academia Cuauhtli titled, Academia Cuauhtli and the Eagle: Danza Mexica and the Epistemology of the Circle by Angela Valenzuela, Emilio Zamora, and Brenda Rubio, here.
Saturday school teachers are bilingually-certified teachers in the Austin Independent School District that has already resulted in the retention of at least our teachers (this year, between 12 and 15).

Throughout the year, a rotating set of novice and expert teachers are paired in order to prevent teacher burnout.  This has resulted in a learning community that extends the curriculum into their regular, dual language classrooms.  With our curriculum also getting taught in the district's summer, dual language program, Nuestro Grupo has already prepared at least 50 AISD teachers in the curriculum.

Along these same lines, a  principal yesterday confirmed what we had been hearing from other principals and teachers in our other participating schools that after having received Spanish-language instruction at Academia Cuauhtli in civil rights, children manifest a strong sense of pride in wanting to speak Spanish more.  In that transition from the third to the fourth grade, those early years, she noted, children frequently become ashamed of being Mexican and speaking Spanish.  

Academia Cuauhtli helps to counter that phenomenon that I hear is ubiquitous not only in our district, but for our community statewide and beyond.  This is an artifact of the secondary language status that the Spanish language still holds but which we must systematically challenge, especially given the pedagogical and curricular challenges and opportunities that demographic change represents.

A trusting, open, often playful, spirit of partnership underpins the very serious work of founding and institutionalizing a "third space" where our community through its curriculum is able to speak its existential truths, while simultaneously educating our youth, teachers, and indeed, ourselves, in the history, language, aesthetic, values, and culture of our community.

Many thanks to Superintendent Paul Cruz for hosting us, as well as to AISD Board Vice President Paul Saldańa, Board President Kendall Pace, and AISD English Language Learner Director David Kauffman for their presence and participation. 

Thanks, as well, to our participating principals, Azucena Garcia (Sanchez El), Martha Castillo (Metz El), José Macías (Zavala El), and for joining us, as well.  Not pictured below are Principals Castillo, Macías, and García who had to leave early, nor principal Ellen Camarillo (Houston El) who was unable to join us yesterday evening.

A final word of thanks to ESB-MACC co-hosts Marina Islas, Frank Baca, Fabian, and Herlinda Zamora for always being so accommodating and helpful. 

We in Austin are hopeful that really good things are in store for FWISD and thankful that those of us in Nuestro Grupo/Academia Cuauhtli can be helpful.  Personally speaking, I'm feeling pretty happy and blessed right now to see that our work is getting recognized.

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Sí se puede!  Yes, we can!

Angela Valenzuela


Chris Milk, David Kauffman, Jacinto Ramos, Greg Pulte, Emilio Zamora, Angela Valenzuela, Marky Ramos, Kendall Pace, Paul Saldaña, and Kent Scribner (left-right)

1 comment:

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