Excerpt from Larry Ferlazzo’s Edweek Classroom Q&A.
Angela Valenzuela agreed to answer a few questions about the new book she has edited, Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth.
Angela Valenzuela is a professor in both the Educational Policy and Planning Program Area within the Department of Educational Administration and the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin where she also serves as the director of the Texas Center for Education Policy and the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP).
LF: You write that the book came out of the Grown Your Own Teacher initiative. Can you tell us about that effort and the book’s origins?
The anthology, “Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth,” examines the knowledge, skills, and predispositions required for higher education institutions to effectively educate the future educators of Latino/a children, children of color, and language-minority youth, in general. “Growing Critically Conscious Teachers” refers both to creating pathways into the teaching profession via our organic partnership model, as well as fostering teachers’ critical consciousness. There is no need to outsource education to the corporate sector or recruit educators from overseas.
Our vision instead is to grow our own future educators from within our own communities, armed with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that no longer perpetuate what I term, “subtractive schooling,” while also strengthening local capacity. Asset-based pedagogies instead become a new default with a humanizing, social justice praxis that allows students to be transformative agents of change in the world. That is, they must help students get out from under the dominant group’s imposition of its monolingual, monocultural, and objectifying values, and ways of knowing and being that, drawing on Paulo Freire, domesticate rather than liberate.
“Growing Critically Conscious Teachers” reflects the history and work of the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP; pronounced “nel-rap”), a national consortium and nonprofit. We are comprised of primary, secondary, and post-secondary educators, leaders of community-based organizations, as well as university and school district partners that work together to address, in a context of teacher, parent, and community empowerment, the teacher preparation and retention crises in our states and nation, as well as the underrepresentation of Latino/a teachers (7.1% nationally). As one of our NLERAP elders out of one of our sites in Dallas, Texas, Hector Flores, wisely admonishes, “The teaching profession is the most important profession of all because it is the key to all the other professions.”