“I aim to value and celebrate my students’ diverse backgrounds, languages, and cultures, creating an inclusive and empowering learning environment.”

January 23, 2024

Marisa is a transitional kindergarten teacher at Adobe Bluffs Elementary School, a Mandarin Immersion Program.

Who she is as an educator:
Meeting each and every one of my students as individuals who are bringing their whole set of cultural beliefs, language, values, and looking at myself to see how my biases influence my interactions with my students is where my focus lies as an educator. There’s a lot of self-reflection involved. You don’t learn from your experiences, you learn from your self-reflections about the experiences you’ve lived.

I draw inspiration from Zaretta Hammond, who wrote Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (Corwin, 2015). She points out that we are in fact cultural beings and it’s our responsibility as educators to create a safe space for our students so that they can fully engage. True equity involves making substantive changes in curriculum to empower students to become change-makers.

As a transitional kindergarten teacher, I witness the development of students from egocentrism to an awareness of collaboration and empathy. Fostering empathy is crucial in helping young learners look beyond themselves. By bridging gaps in understanding, we cultivate collaboration, trust, and a sense of community essential for broader societal interactions.

Why the California Reading and Literature Project:
With the CRLP, I’ve found a sense of belonging. It’s a compassionate community of individuals who are drawn to this work out of a genuine desire to make a positive impact. Here, we share a common aspiration to learn and evolve, guided by a humanistic philosophy that resonates deeply with me. This compassionate ethos lies at the core of the CRLP and their core values, reflecting the mindset we initially embraced when entering the teaching profession.

I empathize with educators who may lose sight of their purpose amidst a system that, at times, fails to recognize and value their contributions. However, the CRLP provides a refreshing perspective and a different mentality. Engaging with this community allows you to view education through a compassionate lens, emphasizing a commitment to making a meaningful difference beyond the constraints of grade-level standards. It’s about looking beyond the surface and aspiring to contribute to a more significant, positive impact in the realm of education.

What the CRLP has brought to her teaching experience:
Through my involvement in the CRLP, I discovered the California Global Education Project’s (another Subject Matter Project) Global Book Bags program. Given my teaching context at Adobe Bluffs Elementary School, where a global perspective is valued, this content resonated with me. Participating in the Global Book Bags initiative taught me the importance of empowering students to be activists. It shifted my perspective from providing projects and activities for my students to presenting social justice standards and Global Goals through literature, allowing them to find their path while receiving support. This realization marked a significant shift, reminding me to listen to my students’ needs and desires based on who they are.

I am also grateful for the CRLP and the enriching book clubs featuring Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators (Jossey-Bass, 2018). This experience has been instrumental in helping me gradually overcome my perfectionism and has granted me the liberating permission to extend grace to myself. Furthermore, being inspired by the wisdom of Flourish Agenda, another professional learning opportunity provided by the CRLP, I’ve learned to embrace and accept all aspects of myself, taking and teaching a healing-centered approach. The journey has undeniably transformed me into a happier individual and a more effective educator.

You can find Marisa on X @https://twitter.com/MarisaP_C.

Keywords: teachers as learners, teachers as leaders, community, resilience, social justice, culturally responsive teaching, literacy, multilingual learners, leadership, equity, transitional kindergarten