International Women's Day 2015 The Socialist - Learning Communities

Published on March 8th, 2015 | by Jen McClellan

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Learning Communities

The Socialist Party USA calls for an egalitarian educational system with teaching methods that accommodate the wide range of teaching and learning styles, and that provides all students with the means to obtain the post-secondary education they desire.  We call a maximum of 15 students per teacher for grades K-12, and a maximum of 50 students per teacher at the post-secondary level.

Anyone who is in any way involved with the education system in America right now knows that increasing class sizes and decreasing one-on-one time between teachers and students are contributing to a decreased quality of learning.

Not to worry though, there are always individuals out there fighting the good fight. This month, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognize Professor Amparo Hernandez-Folch, who says:

I am a Latina-Asian woman that has devoted her professional life to impact change though education.

I am a full professor of the Department of Mathematics in Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA. I have been in this position for the last 28 years.

I am also the manager of a solo primary care medical practice in Chelmsford MA.

I am the proud mother of five children and the proud grandmother of five grandchildren. I am blessed to be married to the man of my life.

I am a true believer in cultural inclusiveness and in excellence for ALL.

I met Amparo at a FLEX day at Moorpark, where faculty, administration, and a few of us students gathered to hear these two women from Boston talk about how they are changing the face of education.

The SPUSA also calls for student representation on school boards, and for those boards to be fully accountable to students, parents, teachers, and school workers. I believe what Amparo and others are doing with learning communities will prepare people for these active roles.

Bunker Hill’s Mission statement includes:

  1. providing student-centered environments which address multiple learning styles
  2. encouraging collaborative learning which develops integrative thinking skills
  3. fostering connections among students, faculty and staff
  4. helping students to become responsible, actively engaged learners
  5. teaching students to identify and access sources of support
  6. encouraging vibrant teaching partnerships which promote richer and more flexible pedagogies and teaching practices
  7. enabling faculty to build connections among disciplines and create more engaged classrooms
  8. fostering increased conversation among faculty beyond the learning communities
  9. incorporating ongoing assessment which is responsive to the evolving needs of these learning communities

This addresses another SPUSA platform point, which is the opportunity for lifelong self-education. How did Ampara find herself in this wonderful position? Well for one she’s got this energetic attitude of gratitude:

I started teaching when I was 20 years old. At that time, I taught first grade students mainly because I love children. I was able to get this job through my mentor, Sister Pilar Torres, a nun of “Las Carmelitas de la Caridad” congregation. She was an outstanding and knowledgeable teacher. She was and still is a source of inspiration in my life. She shared knowledge in a sensitive, dynamic and meaningful way.

Since then, I have taught different levels of K-12 students and college students, particularly those in Community Colleges. I always wanted to teach so I could be in direct contact with students. This relationship with students has been the single most important and meaningful factor in my professional life. Teaching has allowed me to develop habits of mind such as flexibility, compassion and critical thinking to mention a few.

For me, teaching is a continuous commitment to improvement and growth — a true blessing!

Along with the SP I’m involved in the California Student Union, whose mandate states that we:

  • Fight for the Right of all People to Equal Access to a Free, Quality, Public Education
  • To Fight Against Racism and All Forms of Oppression in the Movement, in Society, and Everywhere

Keeping this in mind, the next thing I asked Professor Hernandez-Folch was to share some of the challenges and blessings of being a minority woman in education. She offered this intimate insight:

Through these 40 plus years that I have been teaching, my mindset towards being a minority woman in education has changed. There were times when my accent was perceived as not having enough education or not being sophisticated enough. There were times when, because of my ethnic background, some of my colleagues perceived my style of teaching too personal and not” professional” enough. All these have changed for me. I do not react anymore to the label “minority.” I believe that being culturally diverse is one of my greatest assets and attributes. It allows me to connect with my students meaningfully and successfully. Today and because of my global consciousness, I feel part of the majority — a citizen of the world. I believe that Education is a great equalizer.

Lastly, to help our readers understand a little more about how learning communities work, Amparo shared a couple stories about how she has seen learning communities impact the lives of her students:

Forming learning communities allow both the teacher and the student to be continuous learners. The teacher and the student create a partnership of professional growth inspired and led by the experiences of each. The shared reflections of these personal and meaningful experiences become the core of the process.

Last semester I had a student that enrolled in college for the first time. This student came to the college with a documented learning disability. He was terrified by failure. His self-esteem was hurt. His overall attitude towards learning was highly compromised by this fear. After a few interviews and being mindful of this “learning community partnership” approach, we both engaged in a relationship that fostered trust and reliability. The communication was consistent and frequent. As a consequence, engagement in homework, in tutoring and in time was easy to observe and document. Such actions led to the student’s increase in confidence and he finished the course successfully. Just two days ago, he wrote me a ‘thank you’ email that brought tears to my eyes:

“… I appreciate that you always believe in me … and you were always full of support. This made me feel good about myself … you gave me confidence, hope and inspiration … and you have done a wonderful job teaching.”

[If that’s not what every teacher wants to hear, I don’t know what is!]

Forming learning communities/partnership is of great benefit to all of us.

We all have belief systems that need to be re-asses and or change while relating effectively with others. We all need a learning environment that fosters trust and that feels safe. The Learning community/partnership model allows all of us, students, teachers, staff, and administrators to engage as long life learners committed to innovation, change and growth.

On behalf of socialists, students, women, and all kinds of people, everywhere, Amparo Hernandez-Folch, we thank you and everyone engaged in the battle for a proper education!

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About the Author

writes, reads comic books, skates, eats, sleeps and poops in the 34th district of Los Angeles. She's studying English and teaching Supplemental Instruction at CSUN until she becomes a high school English teacher. She's an active Socialist Party USA member and will be hatching plans over the next 5 years to run for State Assembly.



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