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PSJA ISD, UTRGV to host Mexican American Studies Symposium

PHARR – Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) in partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Bilingual Studies, hosted a Social Studies Through Authentic and Relevant Curriculum (SSTARC) Symposium at PSJA Southwest Early College High School on Dec. 4, 2021. 

The event was held by PSJA ISD’s Dual Language Enrichment Department and UTRGV as part of the culmination of a grant first awarded to promote Mexican American Studies in schools. 

The half-day symposium focused on the importance of Mexican American Studies in Dual Language Classrooms and featured Keynote Speaker Dr. Lilliana Saldaña, Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas San Antonio. The event also featured presentations from elementary teachers who participated in NEH funded SSTARC workshops to develop dual language social studies lesson plans focused on Mexican American studies.  

“We united our social studies teachers to learn how to incorporate Mexican American Studies into our elementary curriculum,” said PSJA Dual Language Director Olivia Martinez. “This was a great opportunity for our emerging bilinguals to get exposed to this curriculum in elementary. It’s been great to be collaborating with UTRGV for this work because our students are learning about the culture, language and why it’s all important.”  

PSJA ISD teachers who presented included Hazel Salazar from Cesar Chavez Elementary, Fernanda Sanchez from Garcia Elementary, Eira Muñoz and Beatriz Gonzalez from Kelly-Pharr Elementary, and Marilyn Herrera and Priscilla Rada from Escobar Elementary. 

According to Martinez, through this work PSJA ISD and UTRGV aimed to establish a foundation to expand the curriculum to all the district’s elementary schools. 

In addition to this grant, PSJA ISD is also currently collaborating with UTRGV to offer a Mexican-American Studies Dual Credit Course for high school students this fall semester. The MASC 2301 Course is being held asynchronously in Spanish and allows 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to earn a Humanities credit and Dual Language credit simultaneously. Currently, 15 students are part of the first cohort enrolled in the course.   

 “Thank you to UTRGV for partnering with us as we continue this important work,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. ArrendondoThis is part of our efforts to instill among our students love and pride in their multicultural heritageWe thank our PSJA Dual Language Enrichment team for leading these efforts.” 

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