“I actively participate in the California Reading and Literature Project (CRLP) to enhance my teaching, inspire my students, and empower them to become catalysts for positive change. The CRLP is truly progressive. I love the CRLP. The teacher leaders in the project create a safe space to express what we’re doing in the classroom, what we’re not doing, and what we can do. I take immense pride in being recognized as a teacher leader in the CRLP.”
Thirteen years ago, after completing the UCSD Education Studies (EDS) program, I faced a highly competitive job market. Consequently, I taught at a private school for three years, which provided me with a valuable experience, but limited professional development opportunities due to funding constraints. During this time, I stayed in touch with some of my advisors from the UCSD EDS program, including the regional director of the CRLP, who was also my advisor. It was at her suggestion that I joined the CRLP. Since then, my involvement has been transformative, nourishing, and refreshing, bridging the gaps I experienced during my previous teaching assignments. Even when I transitioned to a public school, although some professional development was offered, I recognized the unique value of the CRLP’s mission. Its holistic approach to education resonated with me more deeply than the district’s well-intentioned yet mass-appealing initiatives. The CRLP focused on a select group of teacher leaders who could influence and spread their accomplishments. I liked that idea.
An example of something that I have accomplished with the help and support of the CRLP is the work I have done with my 1st grade students on Climate Justice. Together, we explore solutions that address the root causes of climate change and tackle social, racial, and environmental injustices in our world and communities. The collaborative learning and support from the CRLP have transformed me into an advocate for this cause. Climate Justice has always held a special place in my heart, but the CRLP equipped me with the necessary tools, books, and resources to effectively educate my students on the topic. The work my students and I engage in together embeds various forms of expression, such as informative writing, art, peer collaboration, poetry, letter writing, and opinion writing.
The CRLP’s Climate Justice resources have been instrumental in igniting motivation, generating pleasure, and ensuring relevance, resulting in my own and students’ heightened engagement. I see how students are motivated to read for enjoyment and interest, and how they delve deeply into their texts and content, gaining comprehensive understanding and knowledge. My students’ passion shines through as they make connections that surpass my expectations for seven and eight-year-olds. They discuss how the disproportionate care for our planet affects different populations and even animals. They comprehend that wasting electricity, for instance, impacts the habitat of Indigenous people in Alaska, while also jeopardizing the polar bears’ survival. As their facilitator, I refrain from imposing my viewpoints and let my students take off with their learning. I appreciate the CRLP for providing resources, book recommendations, and valuable insights that I eagerly share with my students, who enthusiastically embrace them.
This journey has enabled me to comfortably combine various crucial societal concepts and mold them into inclusive, relatable, and relevant lessons for all my students. The CRLP’s support has enhanced my ability to forge stronger connections with my students, allowing them to take charge of their learning, allowing me to focus on developing their reading instruction, foundational skills, fluency, academic vocabulary, comprehension, and analysis of these texts.
Keywords: teachers as learners, teachers as leaders, leadership, core values, Climate Justice, motivation, engagement, community