The Importance of Hispanic Heritage Month & How to Acknowledge it in the Classroom.
Last year during Hispanic Heritage month we had the privilege of speaking with Edgar Jose Palacios, CEO & Founder of Latinx Education Collaborative and Jessica Garcia Continuum Coach at The Educator Academy about the importance of this time, its history, and resources for the classroom and the community. The Educator Academy believes that fostering an inclusive community where all students feel seen and represented is a key factor in the success of a students education.
Hispanic Heritage month… what it is, what it isn’t, are there any misconceptions and why do we celebrate it?
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15th in order to celebrate the independence of hispanic countries. During this time we invite you to celebrate with us in events that are happening in and outside of Kansas City. This year The Educator Academy was at the KC Convention Center celebrating at Fiesta Hispania September 16 – September 18. This event has free admission and is being hosted by the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Heritage Committee. If you know any other events please share them with us and tag us so we can join you in celebrating.
While speaking with Jessica and Edgar one thing was clear to us. What we learned is that celebrating heritage months are important because you are able to honor a cultural difference, highlight leaders in your community, and also continue to learn. When we asked Jessica her thoughts here is what she had to say.“I think it’s also an opportunity for everyone else to learn. There’s such a diverse Hispanic culture in Kansas City and, latinidad cannot be defined by one group of people or one identity. And it’s important to remember that this is a time for people who don’t identify as Hispanic to listen and learn from people around you, of what it means to them.”
As Jessica said, Hispanic Heritage month is a time for us to listen and learn. Take a step back and allow for others to speak their truth and be celebrated. The Latinx community comes from all different countries and walks of life. The language can vary, the culture can vary, and physical appearance can vary. Even how we identify the culture has changed over the years. During this time we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month but we are celebrating the Latinx community.
What is the proper way to identify a person of the culture? (Latinx, a, o, e, Latinidad, Hispanic)
In 2020 NPR did a survey about the usage of Latinx, a term which has been around for over 20 years. In that survey it was found that although Latinx is used to break the gender binary only 3% of folks that identify as Latinx use this to identify themselves. When asking Jessica and Edgar we wanted to know what was the best way to identify someone and they both said it’s best just to ask. If you want to know what someone prefers it is best to ask in order to be respectful.
While speaking with the both of them we found out that Jessica prefers the terms Latina and she regularly uses Latinx. Most recently she has started learning more about Latine and has started having more conversations about what it means and why to use it. “I think Latine is also an opportunity to reclaim the language and the identities”
We asked Edgar his preferences and here is what he had to say. “So there’s an evolution of language, and evolution of who we are as a people and an understanding of our identity that continues to evolve. I use the term Latinx today, not because of the dismantling of the gender binary, that’s part of it. Not because it can be considered an activist term, that’s part of it, but I really love the X as a symbol, for the incredible diversity of our community. And so not one term is ever gonna fully define who we are as a people. That to me is why Hispanic heritage month is important. I actually don’t think it’s any different than pronouns or assuming gender identity, right. And so if you want to know what term is utilized for the person that you’re talking to, like, if you have a relationship with them, just ask, how do you identify? It’s a simple conversation. It’s a simple question.” – Edgar
What is the best way for teachers to highlight and celebrate Hispanic culture in classrooms?
Diverse representation in the classroom is something that is all around us. We can find people in the schools (admin, staff, and educational leaders) and in the community to represent the students in your classroom. You can always have folks come in and speak about who they are or invite students to speak about themselves and where they see themselves represented. When asking Edgar he touched on how easy it is to practice this. “How do you make people feel like they belong? You see them in the literature, on the posters, you see them in the language that’s available. And so these things are not difficult. They just take a little bit of intentionality and the willingness to ask, like, how can I do it? Sometimes you just have to Google it and make it work. Sometimes you can engage other folks in the conversation and invite them to say, how would you do it?”
When we asked Jessica she feels like all you need to do is make space in your classroom. “At this point in your educational career if you are not making space for things like this, you need to reevaluate. I mean, as harsh as that sounds please reevaluate, because that means that not every child in your classroom is getting an opportunity to feel seen. And that’s, that’s critical to this job, to this work. You have experts within your building. Your students and their families. If you prefer Latin, a Latinx, Hispanic teachers share that with them, get their voices at the table and step back and listen, because they know and they can support.”
Celebrating the culture in your classroom is important not only to your learning as an educator but also to your students and them seeing themselves represented in the classroom. It is important that we celebrate not only during September 15th – October 15th but also to continue to celebrate and educate throughout the year. We at The Educator Academy want to continue to cultivate teachers in order for all students to have an equitable education.
If you are interested in seeing the full live discussion head to our Youtube page! Our application is now open and we encourage you to apply today! Still on the fence? Schedule a call with a member of our team to learn more!