Community Profile: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage at Roaring Fork Schools
Names mean a lot in Hispanic culture, so when students of Carbondale Middle School English Language Learner (ELL) teacher Grace De La Sala say they want to Americanize their names, she hands them the book, “The NameJar”.
“It speaks to the importance of your name and what it means,” she said.
She recalled one of her younger students who wanted to start using Jasmin instead of her first name, Jazmín, thinking she could fit more into North American culture if she did.
“After reading the book, she said, ‘No, call me by my (Hispanic) name,'” De La Sala said. “We talk a lot about identity and how powerful it is, especially for some of the kids who were born here or came here at a very young age.”
Cultural identity, as well as lessons about Latin American history, important figures in Chicano history, literature and pop culture were high on the agenda for schools in the Roaring Fork District during the Hispanic Heritage Month.
Celebrated each year in the United States from September 15 to October 15, it is an opportunity to recognize the culture, heritage and contributions of the Hispanic or Latino community in the United States.
At the Roaring Fork Schools, where 57% of the student body is Hispanic and where Spanish is the second language spoken at home, it’s something that’s honored year-round, De La Sala said. .
This point was also underscored when the district school board issued a proclamation at its Sept. 14 meeting in honor of “Hispanic or Latinx Heritage Month.”
“We recognize that, given the challenges and disparities faced by the Hispanic or Latinx community, this proclamation is just one small step among many that we must take to be truly inclusive and supportive of our Hispanic or Latinx students. and their families,” said the proclamation reads, continues…
“We believe that our diversity is a strength where the diverse ethnicities and cultures of our students create rich educational and cultural experiences for the entire school community.
De La Sala’s classroom is adorned with the flags of all Spanish-speaking countries and banners celebrating aspects of Hispanic culture. She said it is important for students to identify with their cultural roots.
“I’m Colombian and my husband is from Nebraska, but our son, who was born here, says he feels more Colombian,” she said. “Some of our children feel more Mexican or more Salvadoran. We always try to tell them how powerful it is that they speak Spanish, that their parents or grandparents immigrated here from another country and how brave that is.
At the same time, she stresses the importance of learning to master English and that becoming bilingual in English and Spanish, or any other language, opens up opportunities.
Roaring Fork District High Schools offer a special biliteracy seal upon graduation if a student can show fluency in two languages and meet other requirements.
Literary works by Hispanic authors are a common way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Throughout the district, middle schoolers read books such as “Esperanza Rising,” “Paco Jones,” “Summer of the Mariposas,” and “A Long Walk to the Water.”
De La Sala went further with her students last year. Part of Esperanza’s story involves crocheting, so with the help of ELD teacher Krista Lasko and resident artist Erica Ogihara, who knows how to crochet, the class created a quilt with each student contributing a square .
“We want to do it again this year and are asking all parents who know how to crochet to get involved,” she said.
Lasko students this month also compared and contrasted Latin American patriotic traditions with those of the United States and examined the differences and similarities of different country flags.
At Glenwood Springs Middle School, this month’s morning announcements included a tidbit about the story’s Hispanic characters.
As an extension of this, students of Spanish teacher Kristen Sartor produced posters highlighting important people in the Hispanic community. They are now displayed in the lobby.
“Students were given a list of important Hispanic people around the world, and some came up with their own picks,” she said. “They then researched the person’s background and found some fun facts about them.”
In the sixth and seventh year, GSMS students discover Spanish-speaking countries
Another GSMS project in recent years has encouraged immigrant students to share their family history. The project has been nationally recognized as a “model of excellence” and the school has been invited to present at the National Education Conference Expeditionary Learning (EL) in December.
“Three children and I will present our project, and our principal (Joel Hathaway) and another teacher will also present what it means to be ‘Crew’ and to belong to our school,” said Lucia Campbell, GSMS ELL teacher.
Crew is an EL method adopted by Roaring Fork schools, which is used to build better relationships and understanding between students and to encourage teamwork towards academic progress and character development.
At Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs, third graders learned and discussed how children around the world access books. Students will also do a special art project involving a Guatemalan bird, and a pupusa lunch celebration is planned for next week.
Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs also hosts its annual Hispanic Heritage Night, which is open to the public, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the school, 195 Center Drive in West Glenwood.
“We started doing it the second year the school opened and since then we’ve doubled the number of students, so it’s become a big community event,” said Brenda Kaiser, coordinator of the school. community school at TRCS.
“Families prepare meals and house and bring them for the celebration, so we have food from Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina – everywhere,” she said.
TRCS is a charter school that opened in 2014 and just came under the umbrella of the Roaring Fork School District this year. The emphasis is on language acquisition and project-based learning.
“Spanish language acquisition is a priority for us and is one of the pillars on which the school was founded,” Kaiser said. “Culture and food bring people together, and it’s one of our favorite events throughout the year.”
There will also be mariachi music and dancing, as well as dance lessons.
Proceeds from the event go to support the eighth grade class’ trip to South Baja, Mexico in the spring, where students help at an orphanage, learn at a CSU extension campus located there and go whale watching, among other activities.
Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected].