Teacher educators and co-founders of the People’s Education Movement recognized for culturally-responsive research, interventions for students of color.
UCLA alumni from the divisions of Urban Schooling and Social Sciences and Comparative Education are being recognized this month at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Carolina Valdez (‘15, Ph.D., Urban Schooling), Stephanie Cariaga (’18, Ph.D., Social Sciences & Comparative Education), and Edward Curammeng (‘17, Ph.D., Race and Ethnic Studies) are all involved in the People’s Education Movement, a teacher organization committed to culturally-responsive education and have based their research and writings on innovative ways to serve students of color from the perspectives of ethnic studies and healing for trauma. They will be honored for their respective projects in their communities, research on students of color, and their dissertations by AERA’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Valdez, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at CSU Fullerton, will be recognized with the 2019 Scholar-Activist & Community Advocacy Award from the Critical Educators for Social Justice SIG.
“I’m honored to have won this award in a SIG that has felt like home while at AERA,” says Valdez, who co-founded the People’s Education Movement with Cariaga. “My mom planted my passion for politics as a kid. She modeled teacher activism for me growing up when she organized parents at her school around language waivers when Prop 227 dismantled bilingual education in California. I have continued her work around educational activism and hope that my daughter Naiara will continue our family [tradition of] activism around issues she is passionate about.”
Valdez, who taught at the elementary level in LAUSD for eight years, has been involved in a number of community organizations such as the Association of Chicana Activists, Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, Association of Filipinas Fighting Imperialism, Refeudalization and Marginalization, the Graduate Student Association of Education at UCLA, and the Teacher Activist Group National. Last year, she served as part of the leadership for the Critical Educators for Social Justice AERA SIG. Her research focuses on grassroots teacher organizing and ethnic studies for elementary level students.
Cariaga, who is an assistant professor in the Division of Teacher Education, College of Education at CSU Dominguez Hills, has been recognized for her dissertation on, “Pedagogies of Wholeness: Cultivating Critical Healing Literacies with Students of Color in an Embodied English Classroom,” with the 2019 Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Critical Educators for Social Justice SIG. Her dissertation explores how Cariaga, who has served as a high school English teacher in Los Angeles and a healing/wellness facilitator came to understand the impact of trauma on her students, developed healing pedagogies to help them make meaning of their experiences, and exercised self-care while facilitating such demanding work. She notes that much of her work is informed by learning from her, “best teachers, daughter Laila and son Catalino.”
“I’m honored and proud that my work is being recognized at an institutional level through the Critical Educators for Social Justice at AERA,” says Cariaga. “My dissertation is about dismantling the notion that we keep our bodies, minds, and spirits separate in education, so I see this award as a powerful way to remind educators that … we can teach our students as whole human beings while remembering that we ourselves are whole too, and that healing is an integral part of humanizing learning spaces.”
Cariaga’s research is centered on how students from underserved communities navigate violence and various oppressions, and how to develop literacy interventions that are both trauma-informed and culturally-responsive. Her research also explores ways to nurture a sustainable teaching practice through radical self/collective care. Her dissertation is one of the first qualitative studies of trauma-informed pedagogy in action at the high school level, and of trauma-informed pedagogy that utilizes English language arts, paving the way for further studies across grade levels and other subject matter.
Curammeng, who is also an assistant professor in the Division of Teacher Education at CSUDH, has been honored for his dissertation, “Portraits of Praxis: Lessons from Filipino American Teachers Rooted in Ethnic Studies,” with the 2019 Outstanding Dissertation Award from AERA’s Research on Asian and Pacific Americans SIG. His dissertation draws from critical race theory and portraiture in documenting how Filipino American teachers understand and apply Ethnic Studies pedagogies to address the unique needs and contexts of their students.
Curammeng’s work contributes to research on the connection between Ethnic Studies and teacher education. He says that such work is especially pertinent in the context of nationwide movement to implement Ethnic Studies as a requirement in K-12 schools.
“Ethnic Studies has been incredibly transformative in my life,” says Curammeng, who previously taught through Pin@y Educational Partnerships, an Ethnic Studies teacher pipeline in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Although Filipino Americans are the second largest Asian American ethnic group, Filipino Americans’ experience and stories remain at the margins. I’m grateful that this work is being recognized that beyond representation, there’s much to learn from how Ethnic Studies prepares effective teachers.”
Photos courtesy of Edward Curammeng