New Latin American Area Studies-Educator Network (LAA-SEN) hosts first meeting day

By Janel Anderson, LACIS Outreach Coordinator

Not even a sweeping snowstorm could stop teachers from all over south-central Wisconsin from gathering together on February 13th to participate in the inaugural meeting of LAAS-EN, the Latin American Area Studies-Educator Network. 

LAAS-EN is a new outreach effort organized by LACIS that brings together educators who teach about Latin America. LAAS-EN was the brainchild of two teachers, Caitlin Farrell (Middleton High School) and AJ Simonini (Verona High School). The two educators wanted to find ways to join forces with other teachers like themselves who are looking to improve and grow their curriculum, content, and course offerings about Latin American culture, languages, and history. Out of their passion and dedication, LAAS-EN was born. 

Sponsored by LACIS, LAAS-EN’s aims to bring together education professionals who are dedicated to sharing and amplifying the Latin American curriculum and instruction in K-12 schools in Wisconsin. LAAS-EN works to facilitate this networking of k-12 Latin American studies teachers while providing meaningful professional development and opportunities for educators to collaborate within this network. LACIS hopes to help these educators explore opportunities, academics, and programming available on the UW campus and beyond. 

The February 13th meeting of LAAS-EN brought together Spanish Language teachers, Latin American Studies teachers, Bilingual social studies teachers, teachers of English language learners, Bilingual Program coordinators and members of the UW faculty/outreach staff for a day filled with laughter, learning, and collaboration. Among the highlights of the day was a visit to the Memorial Union Special Collections on the 9th Floor. LAAS-EN members were treated to a tour of the current exhibit, named Plants Plantations Labor Trade. This exhibit features Wisconsin companies and industrial operations from the early Twentieth Century thatrelied on plantations throughout Latin America, including the Wisconsin Rubber Company, Rio Tamasopo Sugar Company, Mexican Plantation Company, and McCormick Works Twine Mill. During their tour, teachers were also given the opportunity to explore the rich collection of manuscripts and the largest collection of Cartonera outside of Argentina. 

In addition, teachers found that having a chance to network with other professionals as well as share curriculum ideas was the most beneficial. One participant reported in their feedback: “I loved meeting you all from UW and teachers from other districts. What a great networking opportunity!” Another said, “I got ideas that I’ve already used in my classroom.”

LAAS-EN plans to convene again to provide more opportunities for teacher growth and the development of Latin American studies in Wisconsin. If you would like more information on LAAS-EN and any of our events, please feel free to email and put “LAAS-EN” in the title of your e-mail.