Becoming an activist Chicana teacher: a story of identity making of a Mexican American bilingual educator in Texas



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This person-centered ethnography focused on the ways one exemplary veteran Mexican American bilingual educator’s (MABE’s) cultural resources and professional experiences influenced her teaching practices. The study examined her life history and classroom practices to explore the trajectory of her identity making. The framework utilized in this research included a sociohistorical/sociocultural lens and Chicana/Latina feminist theories. Specifically, my research investigated the multiple spaces where a MABE navigated between an additive bilingual education model and a subtractive one. The study relied primarily on data collected from oral life history interviews augmented by participant observations at a school in a large, central Texas district. The participant, a first grade teacher with 28 years of classroom experience in the same district, was interviewed over a four-year span. Further, classroom observations occurred during a full school year. Additional interviews with educators who worked with the participant at critical moments in her professional life provided not only triangulation of information, but also a multiplicity of perspectives and foci on the educational landscapes wherein she operated. Narrative analysis of the data involved the decoding and deconstruction of a MABE’s active participation in the processes of performing and (re)presenting her identity production including being silenced and speaking up. The findings revealed a dialectic and dialogic process between personal experiences, early schooling, impositions of policies, and daily-lived classroom experience while constantly navigating and negotiating the challenges of educating culturally and linguistically diverse students. A primary finding revealed the construct of autobiographical consciousness as a MABE’s critical awareness of the historical legacy, lived experiences, and the contexts in which she teaches. The study documented silencing through marginalization, as well as establishing voice through agency to understand construction and reconstruction of identities.