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

November 27, 2023

Vesta is a 3rd-grade dual language Spanish teacher at Lilian J. Rice Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. She has been a part of the CRLP community since 2020.

Why the CRLP?

The California Reading and Literature Project provides me with invaluable resources, tools, and a supportive community of educators who share my passion for teaching. Within the CRLP, I can authentically be myself and learn from like-minded teachers without the pressure to conform to being someone I’m not. The dedication to literacy and education within the Project is palpable, and motivates me to participate in Invitationals and book studies. Every time I attend these events, I feel validated, gaining insights from other teacher leaders present. There’s always a new read aloud I’m introduced to that goes with the Social Justice Standards (Learning for Justice) I’m teaching, along with new ideas for changing or adding to what I’m doing in order to make it more relevant for my students.

Why Dual Language education?

My strong passion lies in dual language education as a Spanish-English dual language teacher. My personal background, with Farsi as my first language, English as my second, and Spanish as my third, gives me a unique connection to my students. I see reflections of my own journey in their experiences. Growing up in a relatively homogeneous community in Oregon, I faced challenges due to my Iranian accent and lack of confidence in speaking. Despite being a proficient reader, I was consistently pulled for interventions because of communication difficulties; I wasn’t being understood. It wasn’t until I shed my accent in middle school that I began to prioritize fitting in and assimilating. Consequently, I now emphasize identity at the beginning of the school year, encouraging my students to embrace their uniqueness, see diversity as a strength, and I encourage them not to try and fit in. I aspire to provide them with the acceptance and support I wished I had received during my school years. I aim to value and celebrate my students’ diverse backgrounds, languages, and cultures, creating an inclusive and empowering learning environment.

What I’ve gained from CRLP’s Signature Programs

One of the many opportunities I’ve had with the CRLP to support my growth as a teacher was their signature program, SEBT – Spanish-English Biliteracy Transfer, a developmental sequence for simultaneously teaching Spanish and English foundational reading skills. Participants are guided through a comprehensive collection of assessments in both languages, a scope and sequence of when to introduce English foundational reading skills, as well as lesson templates for effective transfer instruction. SEBT gave me lots of resources in terms of transference from Spanish to English, which supported my teaching as a dual language teacher. It helped identify areas of need and made sure my students are making adequate progress with language instruction and helped to identify any students who could be at risk for learning difficulties. It helped point out what my students need and how to meet my students where they are with lessons to support my language learners in both Spanish and English.

CRLP Core Values in Action Equity is a core principle for me, both inside and outside the classroom. Building relationships with my students and their families is at the heart of my teaching philosophy. I believe in working as a team with my students and their families, not only in academic matters but also in supporting other aspects of their lives. I prioritize social and emotional learning (S.E.L.) within the classroom, advocate for my students and their parents, and provide extracurricular resources for their children or direct them to community resources. Supporting their holistic well-being is integral to my role as a teacher.

Culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally responsive teaching, and social justice are central to my teaching approach. These elements infuse energy and relevance into my teaching, connecting it to real-world issues and experiences. They validate my students’ backgrounds, languages, and cultures. Culturally relevant teaching practices help me create an inclusive and safe environment for my students. In our dual language model, we view linguistic diversity as an asset and incorporate culturally responsive teaching practices. I strive to understand and value my students and the multiple cultural communities to which they belong.

A final word

The CRLP consistently aligns with my needs as a teacher and what is best for my students, rather than just following district directives. This alignment empowers me to seamlessly integrate the resources, such as culturally relevant literature and teaching practices, into my classroom, deepening my content knowledge. I am grateful for the high-quality, standards-aligned professional development that equips me to better serve my students and become the best teacher I can be.

Key words: ​​literacy, biliteracy, culturally responsive teaching, dual language, multilingual learners, multilingual education, social justice, diversity, identity, community, teachers as learners, teachers as leaders, social emotional learning