I had the pleasure of meeting Ana Berdecia last fall, and was incredibly impressed by the work of her program in developing collective leadership and cultural proficiency among educators in urban schools.
Ana shared with me multiple ways they cultivate collective leadership in their work. One of the most impressive to me, was that they seldom accept individual educators into their program. Instead, they have pairs of educators, who work together daily in the classroom like the team Zenaida Sanchez (2nd grade bilingual teacher) and Norma Villanueva (ESL teacher).
These teachers have been successful in supporting student's with a home language of Spanish in their acquisition of English and celebrating the students' cultural identities with culturally responsive curricula. This team got an award from their district: Trenton Public School ESL/Bilingual Program Outstanding Teachers in establishing a Culturally Responsive Classroom. Congrats to Zenaida and Norma.
We all know how challenging it is for educators to change their practices, even when they are highly motivated, because of how demanding their daily work is in the classroom. Having a team of educators share the learning and implementation together, makes it much more likely that they will be successful in making and sustaining challenges. This approach also allows teachers to practice co-leadership as well as complimented each other strengths.
Another thing she shared with me was how they take suggestions from coaches in the field – in terms of program changes. While this may seem like something obvious and common, it is not. Often the program changes are made by people at the top, who aren’t involved in the day-to- day work of the educators. And often, the input of those working on the front line are a missing element in the conversations and decisions. By including this information and knowledge, they are able to continually improve their program and the results.
The third thing she shared with me that really stood out, was how they educators who come to their 3-day culture and language institute follow by nine month of coaching, are able to engage families as “cultural experts” who come into the classroom as guest teachers. This is a win-win, as it increases the engagement of the families and gives everyone the benefit of the rich cultural diversity within the families and communities, these schools serve.
This program has resources for anyone interested in boosting their cultural literacy while supporting second language acquisition and the preservation of students’ home languages.
Contact information for Ana:
Ana I. Berdecia, M.Ed. & Certified Coach| Senior Fellow/Director
Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children
John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy