Finding Belonging & Connection

July 21, 2020

By Angela Censoplano

I am a teacher. I am an author, a speaker, and an advocate for students and teachers. I am an educator.

I have been educating underprivileged students living in low socio-economic communities for twenty-three years now. Advocating for the social and emotional aspects of learning in the classroom, and for teaching social justice to our students that ingrains in the forefront of their learning empathy, inclusion, communication and tolerance for others is at the forefront of my intentions as an educator. I advocate for teacher education and the advancement in educational practices that support the most current and innovative pedagogy in education for teachers and students.

One of the things that has fueled my purpose as an educator for more than half of my career is the California Reading and Literature Project. The mission of the CRLP is to provide high quality, standards-aligned professional development in reading and language instruction to help ensure that every California student, Pre-Kindergarten-12th grade, achieves the highest standards of academic performance. We are the bridge between educational theory and research and the classrooms and students themselves. I am a CRLP teacher leader and presenter because I am a life-long learner, wanting to learn everything I can about education and continuously improve my craft.

When I was approached by the San Diego regional director to be a teacher leader, I was asked to join in on one of the institutes CRLP invites select teachers to. It was for me, a turning point in my educational career which sparked purpose, desire, and intention for my life’s path as an educator. At that institute the state wide CRLP Regional Directors and the Executive Directors were present, all of us learning together. These brilliant educators who I aspired to be; I was in the middle of, and I was intimidated to say the least. But the camaraderie they all showed towards each other and to me left me in a state of awe. The energy of the room was positive and uplifting, which it always is. I could feel the level of passion, the best intentions for students, and purpose for education emanating from each and every teacher leader in the room.

CRLP is always about the newest research and most current approaches to teach reading and literacy. It’s about the excitement and exhilaration of being an educator. I was at that moment, immersed in all of that! I remember how incredibly grateful and inspired I felt to be there. I wrote a note to my future self at that training. In that note I set my intentions of what I wanted in my future. I wanted to be one of them. I am now. In my mind I’ve surpassed what I had wanted for myself then, with the CRLP and my career as an educator. Not to say I’ve reached my ceiling, by any means!

I often think about what CRLP has provided for me and what I get out of it. First of all, the greatest teacher tribe EVER! These people Lift. Me. Up. And I hope they can say the same for me. We push each other, in the most inspiring ways.

Within this learning community, we do what people are meant to do: we learn from each other and we commune with each other, and from that we get belonging and connection.

I feel the project and all its teacher leaders and directors gave me the confidence to write a book! I felt compelled to tell my story as a teacher. Stories matter. And from studying the CA ELA/ELD Framework with the CRLP for the past few years I realized how relevant it was to listen to our students’ stories, to focus us on opening our minds to the fact that our classrooms are where we begin that development of a global culture of inclusion, empathy and compassion.

Writing that book was an opportunity for me to provide those inside and outside of education an intimate look into the lives of teachers, students, and the families of a low socioeconomic urban community of many immigrants. I wanted to shed light on and advocate for teachers and students and share an unapologetic look into the world of the classroom. 

By sharing these stories I could communicate an understanding that we are all connected.

By writing a book, self-publishing it, rumbling with vulnerability every time I talk about it on Twitter or Instagram (which is always nerve racking), I get to see myself as courageous for doing so. With my CRLP teacher tribe and learning community always providing my scaffolds of belonging and connection, again, as Brene Brown says I should: I rumbled with vulnerability (still am), I tried to live into my values by advocating for these students and the adversity they bring with them, I trusted it would all be okay even if it was scary, and by doing all of the above, I’m learning to rise. And I’ve concluded that life is a classroom, literally and figuratively for us. It’s all been a great big learning experience. And I’m still learning!

Angela Censoplano is a District Resource Teacher in the National School District, and a CRLP Teacher Leader.