NEW BRITAIN – To support inclusive curriculums in public schools, Central Connecticut State University is taking the lead on training teachers to build successful lesson plans through ongoing workshops and professional talks.
This follows the state’s legislation on the inclusion of African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies in the public-school curriculum, an act that was passed in 2019. Some high schools will offer the new course during the 2021-22 school year and all high schools state-wide will be required to offer the course by fall 2022.
The new curriculum is important to students because they need to be able to see themselves in history, said Dr. Robert Wolff, dean of the Carol Ammon College of Arts and Sciences and longtime CCSU history professor.
“Students need to see families, friends and communities who reflect themselves and at the same time, learn about others who might be different than they are,” he said. “The histories that need to be told are ones that play a role in the wider history of the US, but they’re often not highlighted at all. This curriculum was designed to create a sense of belonging and helping everyone understand that every person matters.”
Connecticut is the first state in the union to require all high schools to offer this elective and as an institution that was founded as the state’s first teachers’ college, CCSU said it is proud to carry on that legacy by hosting a free series of virtual professional development workshops for educators who will teach the new course this fall.
The first virtual workshop series kicked off earlier this week, where CCSU faculty experts and invited scholars in African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies offered attendees relevant content knowledge and help with lesson planning and classroom activities. The sessions were conducted by CCSU’s African American Studies Program, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies Program, The Center for Africana Studies, Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Center.
Educators from every public school district in the state have been invited to participate in the workshop and Newington High School teacher Denise Martinchek said she is already inspired on how to plan her lessons.
“The workshops have been amazing,” said Martinchek, who teaches ninth grade modern world history. “I’ve always been passionate about diversity and urban education, and to bring light to those histories has become so important because we know most students are not exposed to diverse histories and cultures.”
After listening to panel discussions from experts and different professors covering their areas of expertise, Martinchek said there are a lot of resources high school teachers can use in their classrooms and to help plan courses.
“It’s been so intriguing and being here has giving me a lot to think about,” said the history teacher, who hopes to cover the modern civil rights movement, paralleling World War I and World War II histories with Connecticut history, and focusing the historic lens on Puerto Ricans and the indigenous populations.
“It’s incredible that we’re now bringing these subjects to the forefront of our teachings because it’s so important to expose these histories,” she said. “It’s definitely the right time for this and it’s great that we are doing this now.”
Reflecting on the fact the legislation was passed prior to the murder of George Floyd, Wolff said events of the last 15 months crystallized why history based on facts matters.
“This is very personal to me because these are themes that I’ve tried to incorporate in my own curriculum for years,” said Wolff, who taught topics like race, ethnicity, and migration. “I know what it’s like to see light bulbs light up from students when they realize they’re a part of history. As a state, we have a great social studies framework already, but never a focus on Black, African American, and Puerto Rican history. It’s important to have those various perspectives.”
The first five-day workshop was a success and Wolff said they have plans for more in the near future.
“The teachers showed up because it matters to them,” he said. “And here at CCSU, we’re ready to lead.”