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Visiting Teachers Develop Materials for Local Educators
Teachers from Mexico involved in the SEED project at the UA designed books to serve as resources for Tucson-area educators who teach about indigenous languages.
To provide educators original and timely resources about indigenous populations, a group of teachers from Mexico involved in a University of Arizona project have created new teaching materials.
Through the UA's Scholarships for Education and Economic Development, or SEED, project, the educators have designed and created several books, which they are now sharing with local teachers.
"In Mexico, like in the U.S., there are currently not many materials in commercial circulation in Indigenous languages," said Vanessa Anthony-Stevens, project coordinator for SEED, which is in the UA's teaching, learning and sociocultural studies program.
"This is because of the oral tradition of native languages, but also because communities are still in early stages of deciding – and then, once they choose – creating writing systems to document their language," Anthony-Stevens said. "This is part of the reason we are so excited about sharing these materials."
SEED participants will be sharing and showcasing their work during the Bilingual Books Exposition, which is open to all and geared toward Tucson area bilingual teachers.
The event will be held March 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the World of Words Library, located in Room 453 of the UA Education Building, 1430 E. Second St. The event also will cover ways to more readily engage language in classrooms.
"It is not just any book. Despite being a simple book, it has a purpose," SEED participant Geremías González Sánchez, who is from Chiapas, Mexico, said as Anthony-Stevens interpreted.
"It is one more teaching tool in the classroom," González Sánchez also said, adding that the books "allows us to adapt according to the place we are teaching, and it is based on our school context, its customs, traditions, legends and the characteristics of our group of students."
The books also will be archived in the World of Words International Collection of Children's and Adolescent Literature, which houses books from around the world in numerous languages.
Each year, 20 Mexican teachers – all who work in rural and remote communities in Mexico's federal system for Indigenous bilingual and intercultural education – arrive at the UA to participate in the program. The program also supports individuals who are technical pedagogical advisers with Mexico's Secretaría de Educación Pública.
Housed in the UA College of Education, it promotes the exchange of different pedagogical strategies the visiting teachers may employ to improve instruction and learning among students in rural and remote communities.
Most who visit the UA also are members of indigenous communities.
One such SEED participant is Marco Antonio Pérez Juárez, a teacher from Chiapas, Mexico.
"I think it is important to share with educators in this country that books are not only written based on fantastic, fictitious, or made up stories, but also based on the indigenous view of the world, which includes customs, traditions, knowledge, names of places," said Pérez Juárez, his words interpreted by Anthony-Stevens.
Pérez Juárez said the books he and other SEED participants created are "based on our children's reality," which enables students to connect more readily to content and instruction as they are learning a second language.
"A bilingual book being written not only in dominant languages, but also in an indigenous language helps the children value their native languages and promotes the revitalization of their native language in and out of the classroom and in different contexts where we work," he added.
Anthony-Stevens said connecting local teachers with SEED participants and also introducing the new resources are key functions of the project, especially because many are in districts are working with siable populations of Spanish-speaking students.
"They are one the front of a wave of treating Indigenous languages as academically viable, like colonial languages such as Spanish and English," she said.
"In the case of our SEED teachers they do not have that option often to buy materials in say Huichol or Raramuri, or the material available are not relevant to their context or represent the variation spoken by their students," Anthony-Stevens said. "So this book expo is a way we can engage teachers in thinking about authentic language use and issues of language status in the lives of their classrooms."