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Sheila Shannon

Associate Professor, Linguistically Diverse Education

My Story

At the end of a sabbatical year at the Universidad de Guadalajara, a graduate student who had worked with me as a teaching assistant awarded me a simple glass plaque with this inscription: Una Maestra comprometida con los mas necesitados. More or less this translates to: A teacher committed to those most in need. I have come to find out that this student, Olmo Fregoso, awards these plaques to every teacher he encounters whom he sees as committed to those most in need. I have discovered that I am among a select group that includes his mother and his father. It is both an honor and a responsibility to be in that category of teacher.

When I started teaching in New Mexico, the most in need were the children of Mexican migrant workers. In fact, the school where I taught was situated on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande just before it starts its journey north. The school was five miles down the road from the community where the children lived and isolated in a sand lot surrounded by chain link fence. One summer, the movie The Border starring Jack Nicholson was filmed with the school as a Border Patrol prison. The only change needed to transform the school to the prison was to top the fence with serpentine wire. While I taught the fifth graders, I wondered how these children could break out of the isolation of their school and community. I wondered how they could get access to English and all that knowing English promised.

I took all that wonder and got a Ph.D. The title of my dissertation is English in the Barrio: A Sociolinguistic Study of Second Language Contact. I didn't go back to New Mexico to do that study because another residentially and socially segregated Mexican community was only five miles down the road from Stanford. In the twenty years since, I have studied Mexican communities in Colorado and Oregon. And in all that time I have unraveled mysteries like the consequences of the hegemony of English and the social injustice of the exploitation of Mexican immigrants in this country. But mostly I have, with many others, discovered ways that Mexican children can be integrated in schools, become bilingual, and thrive.

My Students at University of Colorado Denver

My students are or will become teachers who are committed to those most in need. Recently, a student, Ryan Ross, taught me that one way to look at that commitment is by insuring access, acceptance, and acknowledgement of African American students. I believe that is true for all children of marginalized groups.

Classes I Teach at the University of Colorado Denver

  • Linguistic Analysis of English - LLC5070
  • Language/Literacy Acquisition Part I - LLC5030
  • Foundations of Language, Literacy and Culture - LLC5910
  • Culture and Critical Theory - EDLI7833
  • Dissertation Planning and Design - EDLI7010
  • Doctoral Lab for Diversity and Equity

My Research Interests

  • Diversity and social justice focused on Mexican immigrants to the U.S.
  • Dual language education, particularly how the asymmetric status of the two groups brought together in dual language programs can create inequality or present opportunities

My Hobbies

My digital photography teacher says that I have a good eye and that my best talent is photographing children. I enjoy all sorts of music in Spanish from Mariachi to rock. My kitchen is my playground.

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