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The Pedagogy of Teacher Activism

Portraits of Four Teachers for Justice


Keith Catone

Through the artful science of portraiture, The Pedagogy of Teacher Activism presents the stories of four teacher activists—how they are and have become social change agents—to uncover important pedagogical underpinnings of teacher activism. Embedded in their stories are moments of political clarity and consciousness, giving rise to their purpose as teacher activists. The narratives illuminate how both inner passions and those stirred by caring relationships with others motivate their work, while the intentional ways in which they attempt to disrupt power relations give shape to their approaches to teacher activism. Knowing their work will never truly be done and that the road they travel is often difficult, the teacher activists considered here persist because of the hope and possibility that their work might change the world. Like many pre-service educators or undergraduates contemplating teaching as a vocation, these teacher activists were not born ready for the work that they do. Yet by mining their biographical histories and trajectories of political development, this book illuminates the pedagogy of teacher activism that guides their work.

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Chapter 4. Natalia Ortiz: Growing Consciousness and Community


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Part I: Care and Consciousness

Natalia Ortiz lets out an embarrassed, but playful, laugh when she admits, “Oh God, when I was seven, I was the ‘Queen of Puerto Rico.’ I don’t know if I told you that, but it was a New York pageant. It was crazy, my mom wanted me to be this superstar kid. So I won the contest for the little ‘Queen of Puerto Rico.’” At the Queen of Puerto Rico pageant, Natalia had to talk about what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I picked out teacher,” she recalls, “which is what I really wanted to be.” She “wanted to make all students from different cultures feel comfortable.” Raised by her mother, an immigrant from Chile, Natalia developed “this whole awareness of language and difficulties of what it meant to not be whatever it meant to be American,” and has always wanted to “assist folks with whatever clash they’re experiencing.” Natalia attributes her sensitivity to cultural difference to her upbringing in an immigrant family and to the diverse set of friends she had growing up in New York. “I experienced it or saw my mom go through it,” she says.

For instance, Natalia would often get frustrated at the supermarket when a cashier did not understand whatever her mother was saying. Natalia would help translate for her mother, but people “would get very short and impatient.” ← 51...

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