Tuesday, September 25, 2018

We are entering our fifth year at Academia Cuauhtli!

Happy to share that this Saturday, on September 29, 2018, we are entering our fifth year at Academia Cuauhtli!

Organized by Nuestro Grupo, a community based organization in Austin, Texas, Academia Cuauhtli is a Saturday school that runs from September through March.  It consists of a formal partnership with the Austin Independent School District (AISD), the City of Austin's Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC), and Nuestro Grupo to offer culturally relevant instruction in Spanish to AISD elementary school children attending five Title I, East Austin schools—specifically Sanchez, Metz, Zavala, Houston, and Perez AISD Elementary Schools.  

As a language and cultural revitalization project, our Academia Cuauhtli students receive instruction exclusively in Spanish in the areas of civil rights, immigration/migration, indigenous heritage, local history, and the cultural arts.  Another feature is danza Mexica, roughly translated as "Aztec dance."

You can read more about in this piece published by the Annenberg Institute Voices in Urban education journal titled, "Academia Cuauhtli and the Eagle: Danza Mexica and the Epistemology of the Circle."

We, in Nuestro Grupo, AISD, the ESB-MACC, and the Austin Area Association for Bilingual Association, have established both a learning community and ecosystem of support for AISD dual language teachers who both teach at Academia Cuauhtli and AISD schools.  We are aware, for example, that they take what they learn from our co-constructed, TEKS-aligned curriculum, age-appropriate, Spanish-English curriculum, and offer it in the context of their classrooms throughout the district.  

Serving high-poverty schools, Title I federal dollars have served our communities well.  Title III funding for English learners, too.  I hope that we flip democrat (everybody vote!) so that we can re-ignite a public conversation on ways that a good government can do help our children and their families by funneling resources to our high-needs public schools.  This, atop our local and state struggles, for school finance equity and inclusion.

I and others for a long time have been saying that we need K-12 partnership to create pathways into higher education, including, if not especially, the teaching profession where teacher shortages are severe, especially in such areas as bilingual education, STEM, and now Ethnic Studies, about which I have consistently blogged (search my blog with keywords, "ethnic studies," "Mexican American Studies," and "SBOE").  Beginning with Mexican American Studies, now an official high school elective in the state of Texas, Ethnic Studies-Mexican American Studies teachers shall soon be in high demand.  

At the higher education level, we need to consider how we need to reorganize ourselves in order to be useful to these shifts in policy that are happening in Texas, as well as nationwide.  Do note that earlier this week, California's Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 895 into law.  SB895 will incorporate Vietnamese, Cambodian and Hmong  history into their state's curriculum.  For the first time, students will learn about the Vietnamese refugee experience, Hmong cultural studies, and how Cambodians were the target of genocide.  Congratulations to the people and children of California for taking this very important step.

Again, higher education, particularly teacher preparation programs and Ethnic Studies departments, centers, and programs everywhere needs to respond and be responsive to this already large and growing grassroots movement for curricular inclusion that is taking root nationwide.

We also need pathways for bilingual educators into principalship programs and other leadership positions so that we can have bilingual and bicultural principals and leaders who can serve our current demographic in culturally competent ways.  We also need professional and curriculum development monies for our current teacher workforce so that they can acquire a sense of efficacy in the curriculum.

Thankfully, despite our district's current funding crisis, we have worked well with AISD in this regard.  To wit, AISD is the first district in the state of Texas to have Ethnic Studies taught in almost all high schools districtwide.  As far as we know, Academia Cuauhtli is the only elementary-level Ethnic Studies program in the state of Texas and one of very few, nationwide, as Ethnic Studies is largely pursued at the high school level, grades 9 through 12.   

Prior to this, it is important to note, Mexican American Studies was taught in the Tucson Independent School District until it became illegal in 2010.  Though legal today after a precedent-setting court victory, MAS has yet to return.  That's another story...

We obviously need more programs like this so that our children can experience education in a more complete sense in terms of their identities, communities' histories, stories, cultures, and so on.  And we need district policies and state-level legislation that supports it everywhere.

It’s all quite motivating and inspiring.

And enjoy this video!  The children make me smile. 😊

-Angela Valenzuela

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