Representation in the classroom empowers students

By Judy Ly

Rainier Editor-in-Chief

People of color or marginalized people are rarely discussed in-depth in the history textbooks. We know of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, but not many more names come to mind; not because more historical figures of color don’t exist, but rather because they aren’t taught in class as a requirement.

Ethnic Studies is a class that focuses outside of the Eurocentric lens often taught in traditional history classrooms. This year was the first time Summit Public Schools introduced the curriculum as an Expeditions course.

From being a Spanish teacher for four years, Angel Barragan switched to teaching Expeditions this school year. When he used to teach Spanish, he incorporated cultural factors in his teaching such as Dia de los Muertos, but this was the first time he got the opportunity to teach a curriculum with its sole focus on current world issues.

Mr. Barragan felt like there was a gap in our classrooms of students not being taught about their identities, their history and racial issues: “So as soon as I got the opportunity to create this new course and to teach it here, at Tahoma and at Everest right now, I went with it because I wanted to make sure students had the opportunity to learn this content and get a chance to explore what it means to be diverse or what it means to be in a diverse community and how that can have an impact on people.”   

For their first year, students got to study the history of Ethnic Studies, unsung heroes, representation in media and current events.

Rainier junior Joe Pinkney said the Ethnic Studies curriculum is personal to him: “It’s given me a deeper understanding of my culture and my ethnicities, being Mexican and African American.”  

See this website for more explanation of Rainier’s experience in Ethnic Studies this year.   

See below for a video about the Ethnic Studies course:

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