Reflecting on the Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice in Education (DESJE) Program

Alyssa Nichole Huizar, University of Texas at El Paso


The Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice in Education (DESJE) program is one where as an educator, I was able to expand my knowledge on theories and practices which encourage the application of equitable and culturally responsive perspectives within the classroom and the curriculum being taught to students. The DESJE program enabled me to have the relevant knowledge necessary to formulate and enact actionable strategies within my own practice which authentically support my students of diverse backgrounds and encourage them to see themselves in the material that they are learning. I have long been an advocate for social justice issues, particularly those that revolve around the LGBTQ, Latino, and multilingual communities. When I was searching for programs that would help me advance my goals, the DESJE program described teaching all the concepts I had been interested in and more for me to be able to become a more active advocate capable of enacting actual, substantial change. In this paper I reflect on the concepts, theories, and practices that I have learned in my DESJE coursework between the months of August 2021 and December 2022, and how they have helped me to better implement equity and social justice in my own practice. One of the courses which was very influential to me was the TED 5301 Learning Contexts and Curriculum class. In this class we had the opportunity to read work by Freire (2000) which greatly informed the current views I hold as an educator. This course focused heavily on the impact that a designed curriculum has on students, including when the curriculum is made with only one group of students in mind, often the dominant group, and leaves out considerations for all others, particularly minority or oppressed groups. I currently work as a middle school teacher at a low-income school where the majority of students are people of color. The teaching staff of this school is still largely white, I am one of the few latinx staff of color, and one of only 6 teachers at the school who teaches students content in Spanish through the dual-language program. I have found that often white teachers tend to lower their expectations of students of color both behaviorally and academically. These low expectations lead to teachers consistently underestimating students of color and not providing them with sufficient opportunities to grow and feel challenged. Additionally, these teachers overly assist students by giving them set answers when students would be best served by being allowed to develop their own thinking and with it, their own sense of agency in their learning. A key component of the readings in this class was that oppressed groups should have a key role in their own liberation, and I translate this into my classroom. I interpret the work done by Freire (2000) to mean that in my classroom, students need accountability so that they can become responsible for their own learning and develop a sense of intrinsic motivation for their schooling. This class has helped me in clarifying a phenomenon that I have been seeing since I began my career in teaching, which is that ultimately, the students who are the most motivated to learn are those who have their own sense of self and agency. Therefore, these are the beliefs that we as educators should be fostering within our students – agency and intrinsic motivation. Another course which deeply impacted me was the SCFE 5313 Transnational and Postcolonial Feminisms class. This class was essential in helping me to verbalize the feelings and struggles I myself have gone through as a Hispanic woman, but also to better understand the struggles that my own students in Latino communities will go through. It has always been important to me to take on a feminist perspective in the work that I do. However, there are some types of feminist ideas I find myself at odds with or wish could be improved. This course helped me to understand that there is no one size fits all version of feminism and that it is crucial to take into consideration the different needs that women have across different countries and cultures.

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Recommended Citation

Huizar, Alyssa Nichole, "Reflecting on the Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice in Education (DESJE) Program" (2023). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30633866.