Education Week honors impact of local educators


Amid statewide protests from University of California academic workers marching for better working conditions, Cal State Fullerton highlighted the importance of educators and their impact on the communities they serve.  

Education Week, hosted by the College of Education from Nov. 13 to Nov. 17,  consisted of in-person and virtual panels that outlined how ethnic studies and multilingual proficiency can enhance the education experience.

The week-long event kicked off with the Honor an Educator program, created in 2006 to recognize educators who have made a difference in the lives of students and communities.

Lisa Kirtman, the dean of the College of Education, said the event was important to recognize the accomplishments of teachers who do not normally get recognition.

“We just want to make sure that they understand how important they are to the community,” Kirtman said.

Sylvia Mendez, a retired nurse and civil rights activist who fought against the segregation of Hispanic children in education, was awarded the Distinguished Education Leadership Award. 

Mendez and her community’s accomplishments in Mendez v. Westminster, helped end the segregation of Hispanic children in California. This was the first case to deem school segregation unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment and paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education.

After Mendez retired, she devoted her life to raising awareness about her family and the strides they made for equality in education. At the event, Mendez spoke to students about the importance of education, and the pathways higher education can create. 

A virtual panel led by Tracy Lachica Buenavista, a professor of Asian American studies at Cal State Northridge, emphasized the importance of ethnic studies and how it can humanize education for minority students.

Buenavista spoke about the misconceptions regarding ethnic studies, addressing the concern that ethnic studies promotes an exclusionary narrative. Buenavista said these assumptions are often projections of personal beliefs.

“The majority of people who transgress against ethnic studies really have little to no meaningful experience within our classroom, or the content we teach, or the community of educators who work together to build this curriculum and this movement,” Buenavista said. 

Buenavista recalled incidents where administrators would attempt to limit educators and students’ access to resources. 

“Teaching this subject matter and with this type of pedagogy makes it more difficult to do so, more so than any other educator teaching any other discipline,” Buenavista said.

On Nov. 16, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Center for Careers in Teaching presented a panel regarding the importance of biliteracy. Panelists who are part of the Bilingual Authorization Program, a program centered around preparing future educators to teach bilingual classes, spoke about the importance of multilingualism.

One of the panelists, Stephanie Enriquez, recalled her experiences being unable to enroll in a dual-immersion school, losing her ability to speak Spanish and working to regain it through a college education. Enriquez said her bilingual literacy is an asset and a major part of a student’s identity.

“That’s something I want to help sustain and just make sure that all of my students have a right to keep their language and also support families who have multiple languages and teach in those settings,” Enriquez said.

 



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