Growing up on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in East Saint Louis, I became aware of cultural boundaries early on in my childhood. Elements of culture, race, language, religion and socio-economic status were central to the community, the schools, and the power relations whether openly acknowledged or silently avoided. Each time I relocated within Illinois or later on to Colorado, Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin and back to Colorado, it became clear to me that cross-cultural interactions are the norm in life as are historical and institutional discrimination.
My experiences first as a classroom teacher and later as a graduate student were influenced by questions of cross-cultural (mis)communication, unearned privilege, marginalization, cultural relevance and social justice. These questions persisted whether I was teaching in the public schools at Milliken, Colorado or Cherry Creek School District or in a private pre-school in San Miguel de Allende or at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
My graduate work in applied linguistics at Colorado State University and second language acquisition at the Ohio State University led me to study teachers' cognition regarding their concept of culture and ability to meet the needs of students whose linguistic and cultural backgrounds differ from the dominant U.S. society.
Since the mid 1990s, I've been involved in examining the impact of multicultural teacher education on how teachers perceive culture and deliver instruction including culturally responsive practices used to meet the diverse needs of learners in multicultural, multilingual, inclusive classrooms. In part, my research in culturally responsive teaching practices is driven by classroom teachers' comments, "Sure, I'm committed to social justice and culturally responsive instruction, but what does it 'look like' in the classroom? How do I do it?"
More recently I've begun to examine the ways schools that are highly immigrant-impacted support parents to cross linguistic and cultural boundaries. This second area of research is both professionally and personally intriguing to me as I am the parent of a child who attends a dual-language school where parents and their children cross linguistic and cultural boundaries on a daily basis. Once again, the link between belief and cross-cultural interactions and communication hold critical significance for my work.
My students at University of Colorado Denver:
I have the privilege and honor of teaching classroom teachers and school personnel who are driven to return for their graduate studies as a result of their commitment to meet the needs of all children in the classroom. My goal with each course is to create a rich learning journey in which we can consider and apply course concepts in our analyses of data collected in the teachers' classrooms; and, examine our new understandings, life experiences, beliefs as these relate to culturally and linguistically relevant practices.
Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:
- Workshop in Language Development & Acquisition - LLC 5810
- Multicultural education: Socio-political context of education - LLC 5140
- Final seminar & practicum in teaching literacy & language - LLC 6910-11
My research interests:
- Culturally responsive practices that meet the diverse needs of learners in multicultural, multilingual, inclusive classrooms.
- Steps taken by schools highly immigrant-impacted to support parents to cross linguistic and cultural boundaries
- Elements of parent programs that prompt immigrant parents to become involved as participants and empowered in leadership roles in the school
In the warm weather I love to bike, hike and garden. In the winter months, I make time to cross country ski and would someday like to learn how to ski-skate. Year round I volunteer regularly at my daughter's school and in the community with activities such as Roots & Shoots and Project YES Service Learning Day; and, I participate in local marches for social justice including the Lafayette MLK and Cesar Chavez "Si se puede" marches.
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