Educator Feature: Jazmine Fortes
Culturally-Responsive Teaching in TK-5 Education
- 3rd Grade educator offers expertise to implement Culturally-Responsive Teaching in TK-5 Education
Jazmine Fortes is a third grade educator in the Bay Area. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies, with a double minor in Urban Education and Spanish. She has worked to create an equitable, holistic, relative, and empowering curriculum. She considers creating environments in which parents, students, and their community feel welcomed is central to this work. She sat down with us to help us see how she implements these strategies in her classroom.
Getting to know my students, their families and community, and understanding the socio-historical context of the neighborhood is the foundation for culturally responsive teaching. I start with relationships. One of the beautiful things about working in elementary education is the amount of time we get to spend with our students and their families (TK-5th Grade); so as a third grade educator, I often begin building relationships with students and their families when they are in kindergarten. In some cases, I get to continue to build with students and their families when I get their younger siblings. These authentic relationships help students to trust me, be honest with me, and engage in learning with me when they enter our classroom.
Every August, when new students come into the classroom, I take a moment to remind myself that they are not the same as the group of young people from the previous year: they have a different world view, different set of experiences, different perspectives in terms of what is going on in the community and the world before and while they are in my class. 'Culture' not only refers to racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious identities, but also their culture as young people. There is a strong youth culture that is ever changing that also has to be responded to in the classroom. When I first started teaching in Oakland five years ago, kids were dabbing and saying "damn Daniel" and watching YouTube. My students today have a new TikTok trend, sound, and dance every 2 weeks! So for me, the 'responding' looks like, "okay this is what students are exposed to, experiencing, this is how they are learning at home and outside of school-- now how do I use these assets for learning in the classroom?" Being culturally responsive is more than having posters on your walls and having cultural celebrations with food. Rather, culturally responsive pedagogy utilizes cultural and community assets as tools for engagement and learning.
So much of my learning around CRP comes from my experiences with Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP), an educational pipeline where I co-taught Filipinx American Studies at Balboa High School in San Francisco. There I was introduced to CRP by Dr. Arlene Daus-Magbual, Dr. Rod Daus-Magbual, and Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, whom I currently work with in Elementary Ethnic Studies Curriculum development. So far in my third grade teaching career I have had a handful of Filipinx students. In my own educational journey I did not have any Filipinx teachers until I went to Grad school at SF State. It is exciting to be that teacher for them. My first Filipina student was excited to tell me I was her first Pinay teacher.
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy goes hand-in-hand with community-based teaching because they focus on helping students develop skills and tools to understand and address issues in their community. Community-based teaching requires a deep authentic understanding of the community from the families, community members, and neighborhood. It is common that, as educators, we cannot rely on institutional support or resources. Community-based teaching looks like recognizing assets and resources within the community and to create a bridge between students’ school experience and their community. That might include engaging parents and family in being active participants in curriculum building and teaching, bringing in guest speakers, or taking field trips to local community spaces.
This educator feature is part of Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month. You can learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander History by visiting our Monthly Highlights Page for classroom lessons, recent scholarly work, and other resources.