Caitlin: “When I first started teaching Latin America Area Studies, I felt lost. Without much curriculum, a textbook, or a collaborator, I wasn’t sure where to start. Through research, trial and error, and student feedback, over time I became more confident teaching the course, but something was still missing. I continued to feel isolated and unsure of my role in area studies as a white, non-Latina educator. I grappled with my privilege and with how to bring in authentic Latin American and Latinx perspectives. I constantly reflected on and questioned my curriculum and pedagogy. Was I using quality, engaging resources? Was I providing enough community opportunities, like field trips and guest speakers? Was I doing enough to promote anti-racism and cultural acceptance? These questions were put into a new perspective when I began partnering with UW-Madison’s Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS) program. LACIS introduced me to another Madison-area educator who was creating a Latin America Area Studies course at his school. We met several times throughout the summer, sharing resources and ideas for the course. By the end of the summer, I felt energized and possessed a renewed passion for teaching the course. Out of this experience, Latin America Area Studies- Educator Network (LAAS-EN) was created. LAAS-EN alleviates the isolation felt by many area studies educators by joining them together to collaborate, build curriculum, and share best practices. LAAS-EN has empowered me to be a better educator by helping me establish new professional relationships and exposing me to relevant campus resources and events.”
AJ: “In the summer of 2018, I was tasked with creating a new curriculum on Latin America for my large urban high school outside of Madison, Wisconsin. While I minored in Spanish in college and had some understanding of the Latin American culture and history, I felt I needed so much more support in creating a robust curriculum. I was fortunate to be put in touch with the UW-Madison LACIS leadership, who also got me in touch with colleagues who had worked to develop a similar curriculum at a neighboring school district.
This collaboration brought us together multiple times to talk about our classes and curriculum. While education so often feels siloed, this opportunity provided a way to work with others and collaborate. We then, as a team, thought of expanding this collaboration which led to the creation of LAAS-EN. This educator network provided an opportunity to connect with other educators of Latin American culture and language. It felt really amazing to have these connections, and also have the support of the UW-Madison LACIS program. This collaboration allows for continued professional development and development of the most amazing curriculum we can for our students.”