June 2, 2000


Commentary

Educating the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Student Population

By Remigia Bermudez

Twenty-two seasoned professionals graduated from SDSU's Focus On Learning (FOL) Program with Multiple Subjects Bilingual Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) teaching credentials. Focus on Learning, a brand new education program focusing on the biliteracy and academic achievement of our youth, started July 1999. Administered by SDSU's Dr. Richard Pacheco, the program targeted seasoned professionals to become a new wave of educators striving for equity in teaching and learning methodologies. The first FOL generation of the millenium rendered 22 new bilingual teachers bringing with them innovative academic methodologies enhanced by a host of life and professional experiences to forge the future of our culturally and linguistically diverse student population.

In the 1999-2000 year, the candidates taught full time at various schools throughout the County of San Diego while mastering 45 units of university coursework. Couple this with personal responsibilities and obligations, this makes for highly dedicated individuals.

To meet the needs of our culturally and linguistically diverse children requires more teachers who mirror, and/or take an active interests in, the physical appearance, cultural backgrounds, cultural values and traditions as well as language and dialects of the student population. This does not mean that teachers have to be of a certain culture or another. It means that teachers must be equipped to make connections with every single child in the classroom regardless of the student's ethnic background, upbringing, religious beliefs, language (functional or preferred), learning level and/or socio-economic strata.

Education must have significant ties to real life, specially the life activities of students in order to make an impact on students learning behavior. Connections to the students and their parents (the family structure) and to the community (the extended family life and activities, thereof) that they live is key in educating our children. We live in multicultural, multilingual, and socio-economically diverse communities.

The teacher is a motivator, a challenger, a guide, an orchestrator, a choreographer, and a nurturer in students' lives. Teachers must be creative, intuitive and resourceful and must teach from the heart.

The commitment, convictions and values required for teaching are the very same that will forge our children's future. As teachers, we must join forces with the parents, the students and their communities alike to develop a strong foundation for the students. A strong foundation develops the character, moral fiber and mental and physical constitution of children as they grow up. For students to blossom, teachers must create a safe, nurturing, challenging and enjoyable learning environment and must instill in the students the value of belonging and being welcomed.

Teachers must find forms to enhance the learning capacity of each student by learning from the student and turning that lesson around in teaching points to expand the students knowledge. Teachers can only do that by acknowledging diversity in culture and languages as an asset to build upon. Planting the right seeds, fertilizing them with love, knowledge, respect, creativity and reassurance will guarantee a brighter future for our children, a sense of self-worth as well as a healthier society.

The first generation of FOL graduates are: Lisa Christine Arizpe, Remigia Amparo Bermúdez, Christie Bostic, Cory Lynn Bracy, Berenice O. Bravo, Luís Clement, Emily Yvette Cook, Mary E. Grounds-Perez, Diana L, Holt, John T. Knox, Peter Laurence, Sylvia Mayer, Anne E. O"Keefe-Hitch, Debra Lin Peterson, Lourdes Quezada, Christina Alton Ramírez, Alicia Olivia Rodríguez, Kathia M. Romo, Claudia Serralde, Shawn Stephenson, Daniel Valerezo, and Claudia Zwirn.

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