As an educator, I get excited about Hispanic Heritage Month every year. It is a chance to be intentional about connecting with who I am, where I come from, and what my identity means to me. Providing this opportunity to our Hispanic / Latine students is an essential move schools and communities can do during this month (for more information on the term Latine check out these articles here, here, and here.) Allowing Latine students to share who they are and what their identity means to them is an instrumental way to instill pride and to uplift the beauty of loving and understanding oneself. In a world where students receive messages that negate the importance of their identity, it is every educator’s duty create a classroom that values, celebrates, and uplifts their students.
Impact of Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Growing up, I was one of the only Latine students in my school and Hispanic Heritage Month was barely recognized, let alone celebrated. Similarly, in my professional career, I’ve usually been the only Latine educator or one of very few. The lack of representation from my own teachers and lack of celebration or recognition of my identity impacted me growing up. I didn’t see myself in any of my teachers. I never had the opportunity to learn about or share about who I was in relation to my ethnic identity. Being different often felt like a bad thing, and I knew that I had to reframe that for myself and my students once I became an educator. Heritage months are a time when students who carry that identity can be celebrated and where the whole community can learn about their identity or culture and Hispanic Heritage Month gives Latine students that opportunity.
Overall, I will never forget the feeling of growing up in a space where all of who I was wasn’t fully represented or valued in my educational experience. Working in education, I want to ensure that students in the classrooms that I work in never feel that way. It is critically important to carve out space and time to honor all heritage months. I would encourage all educators to do the engage in and celebrate heritage months. It is our job to allow students to learn from diverse voices and also to have space to celebrate their own diverse voices and Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to do that in your classroom or school community.
Hispanic Heritage Month Dos & Don’ts for educators:
- > DO ask your Hispanic/Latine students before putting them on the spot regarding their heritage or identity.
- > DON’T assume students identity – you may not know who is or is not Hispanic/Latine. There is so much diversity within the Latine community! DO ask your students how they identify before making assumptions.
- > DO encourage your school to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month as a community in some way. This could look like a school-wide assembly highlighting the accomplishments of Hispanic/Latine world changers. You could bring in someone from the community to talk about their identity and what it means to them. Or you could allow Hispanic/Latine students and staff to share about their own identities and cultures as they feel comfortable.
- > DON’T use cultural relics or artifacts in a performative way. Skip the sombreros, tacos, and llama decor. Instead, spend energy listening and learning about Hispanic/Latine identity and culture throughout the month.
About the author:
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! I’m Jessica Garcia, a Continuum Coach here at The Educator Academy. Before joining staff at The Educator Academy, I taught 5th, 6th, and 7th grade ELA and Humanities in both New York City & Kansas City. I started my teaching journey in New York City before moving home to Kansas City in 2019 to be closer to my family. I’m thankful to work towards educational equity for all students in the city that I love most.