My Mochila, Spanish on the Go! Multicultural books, lessons, global citizenry and more…

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My Mochila: Spanish on the Go! is a monthly curated box of Spanish language content and educational support for monolingual, heritage speakers, bilingual parents, teachers and educators.  Mochila means backpack in Spanish and it will open worlds to various learning opportunities.

*Each month your lesson plan of 18 activities will include:

         Literacy: Listening, Speaking, Reading & Writing

         Literature: Your child will receive a Spanish book to compliment themes

         Music: Your child will receive a Spanish CD

         Arts & Crafts: Everything needed to complete the project

         Parent Resources: Additional support & lessons  

 

The program is designed to assist adults teach Spanish with the help of culturally diverse materials, lesson plans and ongoing support from the My Mochila: Spanish on the Go! team. It provides children with authentic and relevant Spanish language books and lessons. Personally chosen multicultural literature, music, crafts and items are chosen to engage students in cross-curricular lessons while learning Spanish. The best part is that all materials needed will be delivered to their doorstep. It is sure to inspire a lifelong love of language learning and appreciation for cultural diversity.   

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Irma Vazquez, founder of My Mochila: Spanish On The Go! is reinventing what multicultural education and Spanish language learning in the early childhood and elementary years looks like.  My Mochila: Spanish on the Go! provides students with authentic culturally relevant items designed by indigenous groups throughout Latin America and Spain. My Mochila’s partnerships will provide sustainable wages to the countries the students are learning about.  By forging interconnected relationships with the artisans themselves, children and their families will further extend their global citizenship. My Mochila can be transformed from a Spanish language teaching tool to a collection of authentic multicultural heirlooms that can be passed down to future children and grandchildren for years to come.

Irma Vazquez has transformed multicultural and bilingual education. Irma possesses over two decades of hands on classroom teaching experience, including multicultural and second language instruction. She is also the co-founder and current owner of My Escuelita: Spanish For Kids.   She currently serves as a board member of the LMU School of Education Alumni Association. In 2012, Irma supported the launch of the first Southbay California Dual Language Immersion Program as a kindergarten teacher within the Redondo Beach Unified School District. In 2015, Irma was awarded the winner of the Latino Start Up Alliance Small Business Plan “Soy Empresaria” and has been prominently featured in South Bay Magazine. She was nominated for the 2015 National Latina Business Women’s Association “Woman in Excellence” Award and is an active member of the small business community in her local neighborhood. In addition, Irma acts as an expert teacher advisor and early childhood consultant with Little Ripples Preschool in Darfur, Africa and sits on the advisory board for Learning Rights in Los Angeles. She mentors and trains bilingual and general education students in the Elementary & Secondary credential program at Loyola Marymount University.

 

My Mochila: Spanish on the Go! is starting a Kickstarter campaign from November 2 – November 16. Here is the direct link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2106982487/675403170?token=8b927fd2

 

We are excited about this great opportunity to support language learning as well as supporting artisans in and around Latin America.

For more information please visit:

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Observations on American Sign Language & Bilingual/Bicultural Education in Latino Communities

UC San Diego - School of Education in ASL/Bilingual    Studies

UC San Diego – School of Education in ASL/Bilingual Studies

My cousin Marco had a presentation at UC San Diego, where he received his graduate degree in American Sign Language, English Bilingual Education. The presentations were in American Sign Language (ASL) while several interpreters voiced what was being signed. While I listened with great interest, I saw the many similarities between the bilingual education program in the context of the deaf community and bilingual education programs in urban and Latino communities.

I was particularly interested in learning more about Anthony J. O’Donnell’s work. He said that hands, in the context of signing, can alter the meaning of words. The following day I got to spend some time with AJ over a cup of coffee.  I had never been in the company of a deaf person and was unsure how we were going to communicate. He brought along a tablet and began to communicate with me through writing. And while AJ is adept at writing quickly and effortlessly on the tablet, it took me a while to get through a thought. But he was patient as I spelled out words, finger by finger.

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I learned that just as spoken words have slight and varied nuances depending on pitch, tone, pronunciation and context, so do signed words. The rhythm and flow of hands, their movement, rate of signing as well as patterns used, add and change the nuances of their meaning. I thought of how words have shades of meaning and how these subtleties are sometimes challenging for English Language Learners (ELL’s) to grasp.

My cousin, who is a hearing individual, has been learning ASL. He loves languages, learning about their cultures and its people. He knows English, Spanish, Arabic and now ASL. He works in an urban school for the deaf with students who are predominantly Latino. During his presentation, Mark raised some valid points that I had never considered. Just like ELL’s are balancing English and a home native language, his students have several languages and forms of communications to contend with. Firstly, his high school students are born deaf, to hearing families. They come from immigrant families where Spanish is the home language.

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Another presenter mentioned the need for deaf children to read and learn about deaf role models so that they see themselves in literature, history, music, and the community at large. This again highlights the need for teachers, parents and librarians to include multicultural literature in schools so that underrepresented children or children of color recognize the inherent beauty of their culture and language.

I shared with AJ that the presentations made me realize how similar the struggles and needs of the deaf community are between ELL’s and those that are considered “others” in American mainstream culture.  AJ openly shared that he knows what it feels like to not be seen, not heard and not validated. And while I do not share the struggles he has faced as a deaf individual, I can empathize because as a Latina daughter of immigrant parents, my experience has been one of straddling two worlds. I have my mainstream English world and the culture of my home where English and Spanish are mixed together, Spanglish.  My childhood friends and I have mastered the ability to codeswitch, depending on who we are speaking to. When in a professional setting, we speak with each other using academic English. When we are together in a relaxed setting, we speak to each other in Spanglish, use urban words and phrases and other forms of colloquialisms. However, mainstream culture says that only academic English is considered correct and that the culture my family is from is somehow less than. But when we consider the main function of language, it is to communicate, to express oneself, to connect.

I feel fortunate for having been introduced to the deaf community, or as AJ prefers, the signing community. It has its own language system (ASL): a language system that is not made up of simple hand gestures, but a system with intricate structures that allows for the deaf community to communicate with each other just as deeply and profoundly as any other language in the hearing community.

AJ- thank you for teaching me something new, for allowing me to ask you a million questions and mostly for your gracious manner and intellect. You are a brilliant man.

Marco- felicidades primito. Your curiosity and passion never ceases to amaze me.

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varies. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.

-Noam Chomsky

When a Former First Grade Student Invites You to Their College Graduation…

jen hen grad collageWhen a former first grade student invites you to their college graduation, one’s heart bursts so wide open, one laughs and cries from the overwhelming feeling of pride and elation.  In the year 2000 a curious, responsible and steadfast little girl named *Jen Hen, was in my 1/2 bilingual-combination class.  Jen Hen was a first grader and from the moment she walked in, school uniform on, her pencils sharpened, mind alert and ready to learn, I fell in love.  She was in a transitional bilingual (English/Spanish) program receiving 90 percent of academic instruction in Spanish and 10 percent in English.  She quickly stood out from the rest because she was a focused student. When she didn’t understand something, Jen Hen would raise her hand and ask, “Maestra, no entiendo. Me lo puede explicar otra vez por favor. / Teacher, I don’t understand. Would you please explain it to me again please.” Nora Roberts, so wisely said, “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

Over the years, I have had the privilege of watching this little girl blossom into a bright, kind, driven and wonderful young woman.  I even became her nina, when she asked me to become her First Communion Godmother.  I have been watching and praying that she make higher and correct choices and today, as they said her name at the 2015 UC Merced Commencement Ceremony, I quietly cried behind my sunglasses.  I looped with her first grade class so I could spend more time with her, also becoming her second grade teacher. Even back then I knew she had that “it” factor. Today, her mother shared that she still has the letter I wrote to Jen Hen back in the first grade, saying that I knew she would one day graduate from college and to please invite me. And she did.

My beautiful Jen Hen is the result of all the good things that come into play when one’s parents support and nurture a child’s education, when dedicated teachers and schools (Go Felton School!) provide quality instruction and when an individual makes the decision to move beyond the stereotype of what is expected, figures it out, perseveres and has grit to make her dreams come true.

Jen Hen will start her graduate studies this fall at the University of Southern California, while her beautiful big sister graduates with a Masters degree from the University of San Francisco next week. So proud of you both!

Whether this is just the beginning of your educational journey or the end – never stop learning, dreaming and moving forward.

Congratulations to the class of 2015!

*Jen Hen is her nickname