I teach second grade in a part of Alexandria where many of the students' families are from Chirilagua in El Salvador. In fact, so many families are from this small town that the neighborhood is called Chirilagua. I use resources from Teaching for Change and the Teach Central America website from the beginning until the end of the school year, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same. —Jeryl Payne, teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools
Teaching through art using Leaving Home: Socratic dialogue with Art enabled the students to dive deep inside and make connections they had not realized were there previously. Reading and studying the art by the Mayan painter Paula Nicho Cumez and Crossing Borders Through Art: The Tortilla as Canvas enabled them to better realize what a rich cultural heritage they have and how they will contribute this to the world. —Connie Gilmore, high school language arts teacher, Nashville, Tennessee
We used the Personal Creed lesson in the second week of school as a part of a unit about Archbishop Oscar Romero. Seventh and Eighth grade students at our Catholic school were familiar with the Apostles’ Creed, having professed it at Mass, although they may not have known what each word meant. We used the poem as an opportunity to dig into unknown language using context clues and the dictionary.
The lesson set the tone for the year. The students got the message that the class would map onto previously known concepts (the Apostles’ Creed, their professions of belief as received through their families or the school), but that this would not keep them in safe or familiar territory. Rather, the poem invited them to see their faith and education as something which would draw them out into the experience (even the devastatingly painful experience) of others. —Leah Coming, middle school language arts teacher, South Bend, Indiana
As an AP Spanish teacher, I am always looking for new information and different activities to use with my students. Using Introduction to Central America, I took several of the people included in the lesson and assigned them to each student. They were to look for information about them and later on “represent” this person. They loved the idea and worked very hard to get the best grade. The one story that impacted the most was that of Oscar Romero: this student came to class dressed as a priest and told his story and it was awesome. I also included the song El padre Antonio y su monaguillo Adres from Ruben Blades, which tells the story of this priest. I modified the lesson to be all in Spanish information and they did great. —Maritza Toro, high school language teacher, Bradenton, Florida
I find that teaching El Norte in today’s class, (although a classic) is right in step with DACA. Romero fits in with the Catholic School Mission. —Eileen Kriechbaum, high school language teacher, Faribault, Minnesota
As the high school librarian, I have reviewed the resources and included them as a feature for this month and included them in a library guide created to highlight and dig deeper into Latinx Heritage all year-round. —Kishanna Harley, high school librarian, Washington, D.C.
I used Introduction to Central America, Locate the Countries of Central America, Leaving Home: Socratic dialogue with Art , and Poetry Fires the Revolution with my middle school students and found that the lessons catered really nicely to the vast differentiation in my classrooms from grades 6 to 8. I loved how easy it was to follow the directions and set up. Prep was simple, and more importantly, the lessons were effective. I used some lessons in my Spanish classes in addition to my social studies classroom. The English department and I have done several cross-curriculum exercises based on the inspiration provided by the lessons. These lessons, too, came right on time with threats to DACA—the lessons helped put students in the frame of mind to accept outside cultures, that it is OK to be different, and that history translates in any culture. —Destiny LaVere, middle school social studies teacher, Washington, D.C.
I use the film Harvest of Empire in my Intro to Global Studies course to highlight how globalization has impacted certain countries in the context of U.S. political and economic policies and their implementation. For example, the World Wars created worker shortages in the U.S., which prompted the creation of federal government programs to bring in workers from México and Puerto Rico; the impact of NAFTA on the Mexican economy and how that triggered immigration into the U.S. from México. For the most part, students are not aware of the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America.
I ask my students to reflect on the interconnection of our foreign policies, the economic and political stability of other countries, and the subsequent immigration of the people of these countries into the U.S. I include one of my student’s reflections on this:
Previous to this documentary, I wasn’t aware of the degree to which U.S. intervention has impacted Latin America, especially Nicaragua. I understood that there was a mass U.S. occupation within Latin America which exploited workers and the environment (such as sugar and other goods) but I wasn’t aware of the U.S. supporting terrible dictators for the sole purpose of economic greed. [T]he U.S. came into Nicaragua, used them for their resources and created several internal issues between the Nicaraguan government and the people, then left and turned their back and denied entry or U.S. citizenship to the Nicaraguan citizens fleeing high amounts of danger and violence. […] Thousands of Nicaraguan people seeking asylum and an opportunity to live in a safe nation were denied entry into the U.S. It’s fair to say that the U.S. has a moral obligation to help innocent Nicaraguans because the U.S. supported the chaos which caused them to leave.
—Virginia Arreola, college professor, Oneonta, New York
I use Inside the Volcano as an introduction to Nicaragua for my students doing service and immersion to Managua. They found it a very good history that takes into account the poor and vulnerable that they will meet when they arrive in country. —Colleen Lee, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama
Many of my students have families from Central America, and Teaching Central America is one of the only places where I found resources to develop my lessons. I began our study of the Cold War with a case study on El Salvador, in which we focused on the Civil War and its effects. We used the Roots of Immigration from El Salvador and Current Policy Debates articles as a jigsaw, after which students answered questions and presented to each other based on what they learned. —Angela Magyari, San Mateo High School, San Francisco, California
My students loved the role play Introduction to Central America. I have a lot of Central American students and they have never learned anything in school about Central America. —Carolyn Torres, Simon Technology High School, Santa Ana, California
The Inside the Volcano unit helped me introduce a pattern in the formation of many Latin American governments. Students were fascinated with the U.S. involvement in supplying arms and aid to rebel groups which allowed Americans to make money off of these developing countries. It also led into discussion of why so many Latin American governments are corrupt today, as the push and pull of international interests led them towards civil wars and uprisings. Inside the Volcano truly felt like a volcano as students witnessed the rising pressures and tensions in Nicaragua that have led to its volatile government. —Harper Wallen, Moscow Middle School, Moscow, Idaho
My principal gave me the opportunity to use the Introduction to Central America lesson during our teacher in-service week before the students returned to school. Our school has 450 English Language Learners with the majority of them coming from Central America, and most of our other students’ families are from Central America as well.
Our teachers enjoyed the lesson, because it allowed them to understand the reasons behind immigration from Central America. Teachers were able to make a connection between a lot of things the United States did and how it affected the countries in Central America. —Arnoldo Jimenez, Buck Lodge Middle School, Adelphi, Maryland
I used the building background knowledge lesson from the Roots of Immigration from El Salvador and Current Policy Debates unit, which had students explore why Salvadorans have immigrated to the U.S. My students were very engaged in the lesson and I appreciated that the resources for each "phase" included visual, audio, and text which provided all learners with access points to the content. It was sad to hear that almost all of my students had zero background knowledge on El Salvador and Central America, which is evidence that more content on this subject area should be integrated into the curriculum. —Faye Colon, Harvest Collegiate High School, New York, New York