By Stephanie-Renee Anckle
Within the K-12 curriculum, a problematic portrayal of underrepresented groups has been noted (Banks, 1987; Kaomea, 2015). The ongoing, inaccurate representation of people of color within the K-12 curriculum necessitates imparting new approaches, strategies, and methods for preparing future educators through teacher preparation programs. Using regional archives as an anchor for the Social Studies Methods Elementary course, I taught preservice educators effective ways to counteract the dominant narrative of historically underrepresented communities (Fals-Borda & Rahman, 1991). This approach effectively taught strategies for designing curriculum and instruction through the perspectives of marginalized groups and local regions.
This project occurred at The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, in a state still healing from the aftermath of colonialism, imperialism, chattel slavery, occupation, and annexation (Barba, 2021). K-12 instruction has attempted to refer to enslaved people as workers in the textbooks (Weber, 2015); such practices motivated me to teach this course in a way that honors the experiences of historically underrepresented groups.
Most of the preservice teachers in this course identified as Mexican Americans, with close ties to the community. The region’s pride in its distinct history has been carefully shared across generations through family stories and well-documented archives preserved at the university. During the first week of the semester, preservice teachers selected a topic that aligned with Texas state standards known as TEKS (Texas Education Agency, n.d.). For three weeks the course was conducted in the Special Collections University Archives Resource Room which gave the preservice teachers ample opportunities to consult, identify, and evaluate artifacts that best supported their respective assignments. The preservice teachers had autonomy in designing instruction for this project which provided them the agency to create meaningful lessons through the perspectives of people of color and regional history (Visintainer et al., 2020).
“Archiving While a Person of Color,” inspired by the short article “Archiving While Black” was the first lesson on designing community archive instruction (Farmer, 2018). This lesson emphasized that historically underrepresented groups can encounter a racialized experience while engaging with artifacts that have been preserved through the White gaze. Therefore, it was necessary to include instruction that focused on the empowerment that emerges from designing curriculum and instruction through the perspectives of historically underrepresented groups and local regions.
Community archives provided a vehicle for transforming the K-12 curriculum approaches that prevent historically underrepresented students from knowing their respective communities and culture (Patterson, 2021).The preservice teachers excitedly embraced the opportunity to teach using community-engaged archives. They chose to create lessons that demonstrated the contribution of their families and communities in the history of the region, state, and nation. A few groups chose to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Edcouch-Elsa Walkout (Barrera, 2001). Many of these emerging educators had parents and other relatives who took part in this nonviolent student demonstration. This lesson empowered preservice teachers to transform educational practices for students of color and design lessons on the significant impact that their families made on the Civil Rights Movement.
While sifting through a box of artifacts on the farm workers’ labor movement, a preservice teacher discovered the names of her uncles on a registry (Burnett, 2016). She discovered photos, newspapers, and union papers documenting the pivotal roles her family played in the labor movement. Another preservice teacher found a picture of her cousin while planning lessons at local festivals. She chose to address this topic because her family has participated annually in regional festivals, for several generations. As a result, preservice teachers designed curriculum and instruction that preserved the collective memories of their respective families.
Teaching through local archival research granted preservice teachers an opportunity to share the collective memories of the region within a K-12 learning environment. Harlon Block, a Rio Grande Valley resident and WWII hero known for erecting the US flag at Iwa Jima, was honored throughout the unit (Marine Corps University, n.d.); although his artifacts are kept at his namesake high school, the preservice teachers had such high regard and veneration for this local hero that they engaged in independent work to ensure Harlon Block’s remembrance and honor by future generations. Other preservice teachers focused on designing inclusive instruction that addressed overlooked such as Black people. A group of preservice teachers created an extended instructional unit on peonage in the Rio Grande Valley (The Onion Strike of 1979 | Bullock Texas State History Museum, n.d.); the group used pictures and newspaper articles to explore the history of labor practices in the region. One preservice teacher also talked about segregation in the Rio Grande Valley as part of the teachings about Juneteenth. Since she felt that the regional artifacts insufficiently told the narratives of Black people, the preservice teacher independently conducted research at a historically segregated cemetery (Writer, 2018). Her extra efforts allowed her to comprehensively teach about the contributions and conditions of Black people in the Rio Grande Valley. Teaching through community archives allowed future educators to design inclusive instruction and teach as community leaders that honor family, ancestors, and all community members.
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Barba, P. (2021). Country of the Cursed and the Driven: Slavery and the Texas Borderlands. U of Nebraska Press.
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Burnett, J. (2016). In South Texas, Fair Wages Elude Farmworkers, 50 Years After Historic Strike. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2016/08/11/488428558/in-south-texas-fair-wages-elude-farmworkers-50-years-after-historic-strike
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Marine Corps University. (n.d.). Marine Corps University > Research > Marine Corps History Division > People > Who’s Who in Marine Corps History > Abrell – Cushman > Corporal Harlon Henry Block. https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/People/Whos-Who-in-Marine-Corps-History/Abrell-Cushman/Corporal-Harlon-Henry-Block/
Patterson, T. (2021). Historians, Archivists, and Museum Educators as Teacher Educators: Mentoring Preservice History Teachers at Cultural Institutes. Journal of Teacher Education, 72(1), 113–125. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487120920251
Texas Education Agency. (n.d.). Social Studies TEKS. https://tea.texas.gov/academics/curriculum-standards/teks-review/social-studies-teks
The Onion Strike of 1979 | Bullock Texas State History Museum. (n.d.). https://www.thestoryoftexas.com/discover/texas-story-project/the-onion-strike-of-1979
Visintainer, S., Anckle, S., & Weischedel, K. (2020). Whose History?: Expanding Place-Based Initiatives Through Open Collaboration (1st ed., Vol. 1). Milne Publishing.
Weber, P. J. (2015). Publisher Apologizes for Textbook Calling Slaves “Workers.” AP NEWS. https://apnews.com/article/—–ce1eaa40c7504c9d8e772241f07d6965
Writer, B. M. |. S. (2018). Edinburg’s Juneteenth Observance Marks 25th Anniversary. AP NEWS. https://apnews.com/article/juneteenth-archive-texas-57c5b7f26edd41dfbf99a462dd355e68
Stephanie-Renee Anckle is an African American Creole interdisciplinary scholar whose research addresses community, culture, gender, and linguistic diversity. She has published articles on effective strategies for using community archives to transform teaching and learning experiences for underrepresented students as well as emerging educators of color. Her collaborations with archivists have resulted in curricula for teaching ethnic and cultural studies as part of K-12 instruction across the United States.