Santa Clara University: Training Teachers to Be Culturally in Tune

By Mendoza, Sylvia | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, April 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Santa Clara University: Training Teachers to Be Culturally in Tune


Mendoza, Sylvia, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


What does a panaderia have to do with teaching core value skills to high school students? According to educators and administrators at Santa Clara University in northern California, the Mexican bakery can have cultural relevance that might just add to a student's understanding of math, history or English - and academic success that will eventually reap benefits for their communities.

Cultural relevance and social responsibility define the integrative approach the university is already implementing with its future teachers. Right in the heart of San Jose, graduate students in Santa Clara's School of Education and Counseling Psychology work simultaneously on their master of arts in teaching and their teacher credentials while learning innovative ways of teaching and creating culturally relevant material for young students in the predominantly Latino community.

"We are fortunate to be part of the community," says Nicholas Ladany, dean of the Santa Clara University School of Education and Counseling Psychology.

When National Hispanic University (NHU) was closing its doors, Ladany was approached about the opportunity to move onto its Eastside campus. "It was a mixed bag of feelings," says Ladany. "It was disappointing that the bedrock of this community is no longer here. That's why we stepped in. Working directly in the community meets our social justice mission."

Within three months, a partnership betweent Santa Clara University and the National Hispanic University Foundation was established. NHU's teacher education students were offered a place in SCU's School of Education and Counseling Pyschology program, and SCU began developing their culturally responsive and technologically adept teacher education curriculum.

Armed with a great faculty and staff, they actively recruited Hispanic students to become teachers, with a vision for rolling out a bilingual credential, and having students create culturally relevant materials that meet common core elements.

"We have increased our diversity to better reflect the community," said Ladany. "Core value is about multicultural approaches and social justice. Everything funnels through that lens."

Now, to expand that lens, in collaboration with the NHU Foundation, the School of Education and Counseling Psychology shares campus space with three Latino charter high schools. The goal: partner graduate school student teachers in these classrooms with master teachers, helping them get a real feel for the needs of surrounding underserved communities. They also work in tutoring or after school programs. The charter school students in the same building simultaneously get exposure to college life, seeing graduate students in action.

"It's a win-win situation," says Dr. Marco Bravo, director of Latino Education at Santa Clara. He elaborates how teacher candidates benefit. They can:

* become proficient in ways to leverage technology to support student learning

* decenter themselves and recognize but also utilize cultural resources from the communities that students come from without essentializing those cultural frames of reference

* develop a foundation for both the art and science of teaching.

Arcadio Morales, director of external relations, who builds relationships with potential donors and alumni in order to raise financial resources to support the School of Education and Counseling Psychology's various initiatives, emphasizes the need for cross perspectives. "It's not a matter of political correctness," he says. "Think about exams or testing. There is a lack of confidence for Latino students. It's not an issue of learning, it's about cultural connection. Education needs to be more flexible, making our materials fit them. The beauty of what we're doing is we adjust to community. It's not going to be the same old school of education. Our model can apply to different ethnicities."

Bravo believes two key pieces - becoming culturally responsible and technically advanceci and integrating technology with specific criteria - will make Santa Clara's approach different and viable for community change. …

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