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WITH WITH
literacy
literacy
&
&
justice
justice

FOR ALL FOR ALL

Motivating high school students to pursue post-secondary education is a dimension of my teaching to which I
bring a solid, genuine commitment. I believe students from ethnically, economically and educationally diverse
backgrounds possess perspectives and insights that greatly enrich the university learning community. Thus, it is crucial
that students from these communities strive towards, thrive and actively participate in the halls and happenings of
university life. In doing so, not only will the students become part of our countrys educated citizenry; simultaneously,
these students will influence others: perhaps younger family members, people within their communities, their peers, etc.
Post-secondary education unleashes a great deal of opportunities for students who consciously enter this path to mature
intellectually, professionally, personally and socially. My own experience as an immigrant, low-income, first-generation
college student has proven this. Undeniably, my present achievements have been nurtured through contact,
encouragement and guidance from mentors, teachers, family members and fellow students who offered support along the
way. At this point in my life, I return to serve in this same role for others, to become an oasis of support for future
students. Models for manifesting academic success, meeting obstacles and hardships with dynamic determination, the
foundational how-tos for navigating the education system and other possible complications which may arise --- I offer
students in Upward Bound these concrete perspectives and strategies for making the journey to the other side.
Additionally, provoking students to speak from and take ownership of their life experiences in order to strengthen
their public voices so that they may hold their own and communicate their positions in the midst of complex dialogue,
decision-making and problem solving --- this is another area of teaching, learning and student development that I bring my
expertise, attention and care to as a high school literacy teacher. I aspire to motivate students to embark upon (or as the
case may be, continue on) an unflinchingly honest, courageous and rigorous exploration of their intellectual, cultural,
social, personal sensibilities with the intent of motivating students to cross internal and external boundaries --- to cross the
boundaries of their thinking and comfort zones as reflected through their written work, to cross boundaries in their critical
thinking processes, to cross boundaries related to understanding their identities and communities, and equally significant,
those seemingly different from them. History Professor Christopher Phelps, in his article entitled, The Lowering of Higher
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, defines literacy as not simply the mere ability to read and write, but [literacy involves deep] comprehension,
analysis, assessment and reflection. (insidehighered.com, December 20, 2005). My focus as a literacy teacher is to
develop a sustained, critical, literate awareness within my students --- to support the development of this refined set of
skills and manner of knowing and being so that they may confidently and skillfully enter, participate and contribute to the
relevant conversations occurring within their immediate contexts, roles and communities.
As Upward Bound students make the journey to cross into the American higher education system, I seek to
support students to mindfully cross this border in order to experience themselves anew as college-bound students who
are becoming inspired young adults on a mission. Mike Rose, a respected scholar in the field of literacy studies based out
of UCLA, uses the expression entering the conversation to name the boundaries of language, knowledge, power, culture
and place that often students from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities must knowingly or unknowingly
traverse in order to make it in the university environment. I encourage students to understand the significance of this act
of crossing, of the work they must undertake to decode the at-times alienating system of the university, to cross
masterfully into these boundaries and break the barriers that engender passivity, mediocrity, isolation and individualistic
thinking. I believe students must bring their voices out in the open so that they may enter the crucial conversations that
occur at institutions of higher education, in order to represent themselves and their respective communities, experiences,
issues and ideals.
To this end, I frame the act of writing as fundamentally a process of critical thinking and ultimately, of democratic
participation. Writing enables a process of democratically listening-acting-doing-being. Students must step inside
themselves to listen in and communicate their subjectivity, as well as step outside themselves to listen, connect with, and
consider the perspectives of others. Indeed, getting to this point is no simple matter. What frequently substitutes as the
norm when it comes to writing is students feeling a strong disconnection to their own writing-thinking process, or students
having fragmented and heavily negative attitudes and experiences towards writing. Borrowing loosely from your
programs theme, I aspire to situate myself as a solid rock of support in the raging river that students must cross to get to
college. To reach their goal of post-secondary education, students must travel against the undercurrents of apathy,
disconnection and unawareness. It requires they embody determination on a daily basis, going against the stream to
become critical thinkers and recapture and resuscitate their authentic voice. Despite these difficulties, when students
undergo this process and genuinely open to grow and learn, they generate within themselves the capacity to serve as
trees of refuge, shade, support and grounding for others. A quote I recently saw stated it best: Giving, Its the New

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Phelps cites a recently released study from the National Center for Education Statistics (2005) that the average literacy of college-educated Americans declined precipitously between 1992-2003. Just 25
percent of college graduates scored high enough on the tests to be deemed proficient in literacy. The changing nature of literacy within todays youth generation brings me to a sense of urgency --- thus,
this focus on teaching for critical literacy.
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Receiving. As educators, I think this is both our highest and deepest ideal and contribution, to encourage students
towards a degree of mastery so that their achievements enable an ethic of giving back, a will to contribute and be of
benefit to others.
Ive been fortunate, having received solid training in the growing field of teaching critical reading, writing and
thinking skills through expository/rhetorical text analysis, a focused approach to preparing secondary students for college
level reading and writing (currently termed as college readiness). Building this type of college readiness and
preparedness has been a domain of development for my current teaching practice. As well as being an AVID teacher at
my site, I am affiliated with a cadre of teachers within my school district who have formed a professional learning
community to advance our work to prepare high school seniors for college level literacy. I am attuned to the complications
and challenges that high school students commonly experience in taking their intellectual skills (and themselves) to the
next level. Nonetheless, I have been rejuvenated with this teaching opportunity to engage students in the processes of
building critical literacy skills. We read, analyze, annotate, break down, infer, interpret, paraphrase, re-read, extend,
unravel, comprehend, question, assess, identify and reflect upon the complex arguments and claims of texts that
represent how language constructs reality. We read, read, and re-read the textual, visual, and cultural worlds in which we
live with a dedicated focus on critical thinking. Such a learning approach exposes students to the sophisticated, layered
and oftentimes conflicted battlefield of ideas that represents the lively nature of rhetoric, language and discourse in
society. Whether in the academic discipline of mathematics, the humanities, biology, literature or psychology, or at the
opposite spectrum, youth cultures ongoing redefinition of whats cool, language and arguments exist everywhere.
Formal and informal texts are ripe for the work of critical analysis. The intellectual work to decode modes of language, its
meanings, attendant consequences and implications is a fundamental skill that necessarily must be honed by all students.
A university education is a priceless opportunity to be taken full advantage of and guiding students to see the
transformative potential within themselves and embodying the fullness of this learning experience captures the vision of
what I aspire towards. Supporting post-secondary educational attainment coupled with the act of critically reading, writing
and thinking about the world of language are my means to this end. Such are the definitive qualities of my present
teaching practice. May your program find mutual benefit and use for these capacities and abilities. Likewise, Im looking
forward to what I will learn about myself and my teaching practice in the unique, nutritive summer academy learning
environment you are creating! Thank you for this opportunity and for your time, attention and consideration.