Los Fresnos News

UTRGV Program to Help Bring Regional History to Edinburg and Brownsville K-12 classrooms

More than $2 million was awarded to UTRGV by the American History and Civics Education National Activities Grant, under the U.S. Department of Education, to establish a place-based professional development program for K-12 teachers. The program, Historias Americanas: Engaging History and Citizenship in the Rio Grande Valley, is being developed with the grant’s funds by UTRGV faculty, in collaboration with Edinburg CISD and Brownsville ISD. The announcement was made on Tuesday, April 23, at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. Photo: Paul Chouy/UTRGV

by Amanda L. Alaniz

EDINBURG, TEXAS – Thanks to a newly-funded program spearheaded by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley B3 Institute, local students from two school districts and their communities will have the opportunity to immerse themselves and better understand the regional history that surrounds them.

UTRGV held a press conference Tuesday, April 23, at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg to announce the place-based professional development program for K-12 teachers, “Historias Americanas: Engaging History and Citizenship in the Rio Grande Valley,” and its collaboration with Brownsville Independent School District and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.

Dr. Francisco Guajardo, executive director of the UTRGV B3 Institute, and Dr. Maritza De La Trinidad, associate professor and undergraduate coordinator of the UTRGV Mexican American Studies Program, received a more than $2 million grant for the program from the American History and Civics Education-National Activities Grants, under the U.S. Department of Education.

“The spirit of the grant is to give teachers, especially social studies teachers from Brownsville and Edinburg, an opportunity to really become immersed in a different way of thinking,” Guajardo said.

UTRGV, Brownsville ISD and Edinburg CISD representatives and educators were on hand to share their enthusiasm about what the program will mean for K-12 students and their communities.

Gracie Alonso, a Brownsville Rivera Early College High School social studies teacher, said she was grateful for the chance to be part of something that can help students better understand the history surrounding them.

“This grant affords us the opportunity to tell our students that we are not just a little blip on a map, that the Mexican American experience is part of the American experience” Alonso said. “And, hopefully this will make them more connected to our local history, our national history, and help create that enthusiasm, that passion, and that awareness.”

Over a three-year period, the program will provide teachers from the two districts the tools necessary – professional development summer institutes, online teaching materials and instructional guides, and more – to use innovative teaching and learning modules to enhance current and historical understandings of local and national citizenship.

Teachers will learn place-based pedagogical approaches that will examine and build on student, family and community knowledge and cultural wealth to link microrealities to the larger American history narrative.

Edinburg North High School U.S. history teacher Juan Ortega said this new program will give teachers the opportunity to create their own resources and expand on the unique history of the Rio Grande Valley.

“I know teachers are going to be excited. We’re passionate about history, but I think it’s our job as educators to infuse that passion into students. And with this opportunity, I think we will have the passion in the classroom and, hopefully, that could overflow into the community,” he said.

The leaders of the collaborating school districts both shared excitement for the partnerships and for what’s to come.

“The students are going to be the winners of all of this,” said ECISD Superintendent Dr. René Gutiérrez. “They’re going to benefit and be able to connect all of our history and culture in the Valley, as well as the state and the nation.”

“I couldn’t be happier for this opportunity for Brownsville ISD, partnering with UTRGV and Edinburg CISD,” said Dr. Sylvia R. Hatton, Brownsville ISD interim superintendent. “I know we’re going to produce great work together.”