ETI takes Sunset students on historical journey of Dallas, bilingual education

An innovative leader in attracting and educating students who view teaching not just as a profession, but as a calling, the School of Education's Emerging Teacher Institute organized a unique field trip for students at Sunset High School Collegiate Academy last Friday. They hopped on buses headed to one of three education destinations --  Casa Guanajuato, Trinity River Mission and Travis Academy for the Talented and Gifted.

All located in Oak Cliff, in areas formerly known as Mexican barrios such as La Bajada and Little Mexico, dozens of Sunset students learned about the early development of bilingual education in the Dallas ISD from a cross-generational group of Latino leaders who have lived the history and can bear witness to their own story and the story of others.

Activist René Martínez, 72, grew up in Little Mexico, a section that once extended from Victory Park to Uptown, an area now dotted by upscale apartments, restaurants and shopping. Martinez spoke to the students about his days as a student at Travis in the 1950s when schools and neighborhoods were segregated. He said he wasn't allowed to speak Spanish in school. 

"This used to be a state law," Martinez told the students, as reported by Al Día Dallas reporter Javier Geribet. "What does that tell you? Language is part of my culture, and you're telling me that I can't speak it? Not even in the playground? They used to tell me all the time: 'Don't speak Spanish,' and that was the language of my parents and grandparents. There used to be a lot of discrimination, even inside the schools."

UNT Dallas and Sunset partner in a program in which students who attend the Sunset P-TECH Collegiate Academy take dual-credit courses starting the spring semester of their freshmen year. UNT Dallas has the same partnership with Lincoln High School. Friday's field trip was initiated by ETI to give students the opportunity to explore their cultural history and Dallas' Mexican heritage. Sunset students involved in the program are encouraged to attend college and pursue careers as bilingual teachers within the communities where they were raised. 

It's also ETI's mission. The Dallas ISD seeks to hire 400 bilingual teachers every year, a number that is not easily attainable simply because there are not enough qualified teachers.

"Many of our students have the ability to speak English and Spanish," Cheek told Al Día, regarding UNT Dallas' education students. "And we not only want our students to succeed, but we want to fill that gap in school districts."