EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Education students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire were called to use innovative new teaching techniques at the College of Education and Sciences Diversity Forum Series on Thursday night.
“Are you a teacher that has their arms wide open?” asked Dr. Augustine Romero, the fifth featured speaker of the series. More than a hundred students packed one of the university’s largest lecture halls to hear Romero’s advice for future educators. Dr. Romero is the principal and director of multicultural curriculum at the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona, as well as the co-founder of the Social Justice Education Project.
The theme of the presentation was inclusivity, as Romero focused mainly on including all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background in classroom activity. Each time Romero presented a new point, he went into the audience to interact with the students. His delivery used a cued PowerPoint presentation, complete with quotes and key points behind all of the ideas he presented throughout the night. Each time he moved forward, a different audience member would read the text, providing an interactive element for those in attendance.
“The issues our students come with are not their fault.” said Romero. “We don’t have at-risk students, we have a system that has systematically created risks for particular groups of students.”
Romero said he is all too familiar with at-risk students, coming from a school district in Tucson, Arizona with 98 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. He emphasized that educators cannot turn their backs on students, because for many of them, school may be their safe zone. This served as a key pivot point in the presentation, as he then addressed the key differences between equality and equity in the classroom.
He also commented on equity and equality; each student is different and therefore must be treated as such. He pointed out that research suggests educators can do better, calling education students to be the always be the enthusiastic, warm teachers they always wanted growing up. As he worked every corner of the lecture hall, Romero made sure to convey the concept of love. He states that he approaches each student as a life or death situation, which can be a huge responsibility.
“Can you be the teacher you need to be?” he asked. “We need to be teachers ready to give and ready to serve.”
After the presentation several future educators approached Dr. Romero to discuss what these responsibilities really meant to them.
“As future educators, we need to be open to all types of students” said senior music education major Alli Wilmes. Wilmes is part of an upper education class that was required to come to the forum, however, she says the going to hear speakers is easily her favorite part of the class.
“It inspired me to really think about making the central philosophy of my classroom about creating loving and caring people.” added senior Shawn Muench, also in attendance for an education class. “I think it’s going to help me reach the students better and get them more engaged with their learning.”
The presentation lasted just over an hour, and was met with thunderous applause from the students in attendance. This was Dr. Romero’s fifth time speaking in Eau Claire.