Alejandra Barraza and Pedro Martinez
Principals and school administrators play a critical role in creating learning environments that are sensitive to the needs of students from immigrant families. School administrators, particularly principals, are tasked with making decisions that directly and indirectly impact what happens in a classroom. They act as instructional and visionary leaders as well as resource managers and so they determine both the culture and pedagogy of the school. They determine whether the main focus of the early learning classrooms will be academic skill development (literacy, numeracy), cognitive skill development (social competence, behavioral self-regulation, problem-solving, and decision-making), socio-emotional processing (helping others, empathy, sharing), cultural development (positive identity construction, community connection, and values), physical development (gross and fine motor skills), or a combination of these domains.
This article outlines our approach both as administrators and as Latina/o immigrants ourselves who work within Latinx immigrant communities in San Antonio. Our identities as well as our experiences as superintendent (Martinez) and principal (Barraza) inform the ways in which we conceive of high-quality early learning for young children of Latinx immigrants. We would like to help principals recognize and think carefully about their influence on the culture and pedagogy of their early childhood programs (preK-2). To do this, we describe how one early childhood school serves Latinx immigrants as well as Hispanic and African-American families and consistently performs well above the state average for early learning benchmarks while offering children dynamic, agentic learning experiences.
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