The term “culturally relevant” was created by Gloria Ladson-Billings in 1994. She defines culturally relevant teaching as “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impact knowledge, skills, and attitudes.”
A teacher who embraces culturally relevant material in their classroom demonstrates to their students that all cultures are relevant and most importantly equivalent. Students who are not members of the dominant culture will feel represented in their classrooms. Students who are members of the dominant culture learn to embrace and accept other cultures.
Culturally relevant teaching is important even if your student population is predominantly one race. One reason for this was stated in the previous question. Students who are members of the dominant culture learn to embrace and accept other cultures. Another reason is it will teach students to accept other cultures when they explore other parts of our country and world.
The dominant culture is identified by whatever race is represented most within a school’s curriculum.
Adding culturally relevant material is not adding additional curriculum. Culturally relevant material should intertwine with the standards already designated within your school’s curriculum. The easiest way to add culturally relevant material is to teach a standard from multiple viewpoints. You can alternate cultures when teaching the curriculum which will ensure not only one culture is represented.
It is impossible to please all parents all the time. Disagreements about what is taught within classrooms will occur. Let parents know how all students can benefit from being taught culturally relevant material. Parents may need to understand that the legislation, Black Education Act, that was passed in New Mexico requires teachers to add culturally relevant material within their curriculum. Administrators can be a resource for teachers who encounter resistance from parents. The Black Education Act team at New Mexico Public Education Department can be a resource for teachers and administrators as well.
Our main focus is to support administrators and teachers as they comply with the Black Education Act legislation. The Curriculum Coordinator can provide culturally relevant curriculum/material for any subject and grade level. The vetting process is time consuming for teachers, so our Curriculum Coordinator can research material and make sure it is appropriate. Our Coordinator will also help with lesson plan development by providing examples of lesson plans that are culturally relevant. Teachers can also contact our Curriculum Coordinator if they need assistance with creating specific lesson plans that include culturally relevant materials.
You can contact Simone Vann by email at Simone.Vann@ped.nm.gov or by phone at (505) 470-5285.
Professional Learning FAQs
Yes. To improve educational outcomes for black students and address racism and discrimination claims and in response to the Martinez-Yazzie lawsuit, the Black Education Act was signed into law by Governor Lujan Grisham on April 5, 2021. It went into effect on July 1, 2021. It requires all educational staff to complete annual anti-racism and discrimination trainings.
All New Mexico educational (includes k-12 and charter schools) staff are required to complete the training. The trainings will also be made available to community-based organizations that serve students. Students can also benefit from the training.
Trainings are typically offered through your school or district, but the Black Education Act will also provide trainings throughout the year. One current Canvas based training called Meeting the Moment is through the Black Education team.
In compliance with the Black Education Act, all New Mexico educational staff are required to complete trainings every academic year.
The goal is to offer and provide access to as many free trainings as possible through your school and Black Education team. However, some external trainings may have costs associated.
In addition to offering trainings and providing access to trainings, the Professional Learning Coordinator (PLC) will identify culturally relevant resources that can be used in the class setting and to meet professional development standards. The PLC will also provide consultation to those seeking to develop training programs and/or develop culturally relevant programs.
Kimberly York is available by email at Kimberly.York@ped.nm.gov or by phone at (505) 257-8872