California Educator

October/November 2019

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A Z U S A E D U C A T O R Iren e S an ch ez is the only Californian on the National Hu m a n it i e s C e n t e r 's Te a c h e r A dv i - sory Council for 2019-20, but that's not the most important distinction of her appointment to the 20-member board. " I 'm a l s o t h e o n ly e t h n i c stu d i e s teacher, and that's why I wanted to be on the council — to bring that voice," says Sanchez, a member of Azusa Edu- cators Association. "at's why I applied, because I think that's super important." After learning about the opportunity onlin e, th e L atin o stu di e s edu cator applied to be on the Teacher Advisory C o u n c i l t o b r i n g m a rg i n a li z e d p e r - spectives and voices into discussions about teaching the humanities, such as English, social studies and histor y. She says it's time to ensure that ethnic studies has a voice and is included in humanities classrooms. "If we don't start pushing these tra- ditional humanities fields, they'll never ch an ge," S an ch ez s ay s. "O ur hi stor y and our voices need to be included in these places." T h e Na t i o n a l Hu m a n i t i e s C e n t e r (NHC) provides leadership, training, resources and partnerships that advance humanities educa- tion from kindergarten through higher ed. In order to be sure these education programs are rooted in the reality of class- room educators, the center appoints the Teacher Advisory Council, comprising 20 teacher leaders representing multi- ple disciplines, who help develop, evaluate and promote NHC materials and projects. Sanchez became a classroom teacher only three years ago, specifically to teach Latino/Chicano studies in Azusa. She previously worked in higher ed, teaching ethnic studies as an adjunct professor and running programs at community col- leges related to her education policy doctorate. Then a call came from a fellow educator with the opportunity to teach ethnic studies in Azusa — the previous teacher was leaving, and there were fears the course would disappear without someone to fill their shoes. "I wanted kids to be able to take this class because I know how important it was to me," says Sanchez, who was in the first-ever Chicano studies class at Rubidoux High School in Jurupa Valley as a freshman. "I always remembered being a part of that class. I feel like this is what I was meant to do." Sanchez teaches the course at three Azusa high schools ever y day (Azusa High, Gladstone High and Sierra Con- t i n u a t i o n Hi g h) , s e r v i n g a s t u d e n t population that is 92 percent Latino. To emphasize the importance of ethnic studies, she picks up a thick U.S. history book and tells her students, "There are only about six pages on us in here." ey learn about not only where they are in history books, but also where they are conspicuously absent. "As teachers, we have to push this. It's our responsibility. We're fighting to have our voices heard and ref lected in the curriculum." The NHC Teacher Advisory Council is meeting in person in October in Raleigh, North Carolina, and will meet numerous times over the year by videocon- ference to review and discuss how to support humanities classrooms at all levels. Sanchez says she's eager to build bridges with her fellow educators on the council to talk about what ethnic studies is and how it can be a component of other humanities lessons. "We need to insert ourselves into these discussions," Sanchez says of ethnic studies educators. "Nobody's going to invite us. I want to make sure our voices are elevated." F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t t h e N H C a n d a w e a l t h o f r e s o u r c e s f o r h u m a n i t i e s e d u c a t o r s , v i s i t "If we don't start pushing these traditional humanities fields, they'll never change. Our history and our voices need to be included in these places." Amplifying Marginalized Voices Irene Sanchez champions ethnic studies' place in the humanities By Julian Peeples 53 O C T O B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 019 C

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