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African American Studies Teacher’s Academy returns for second year

African American Studies Teacher’s Academy returns for second year

JUNE 28, 2021 — When the Texas State Board of Education approved an African American Studies (AAS) course in 2020 as part of its curriculum, it was seen as a win for the larger ethnic studies movement. There was just one problem: who was going to teach the new course?

This dilemma spawned UTSA’s African American Studies Teacher’s Academy, which returns virtually for its second year on July 7 and 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

Karla Broadus is the retired project coordinator for the African American studies program and currently a site coordinator for the Mellon Foundation. She says that the AAS Teacher’s Academy came about last year in response to community need.

“There was an outcry for training to help prep the teachers to begin that process this past academic year, and we took on the challenge.”

“Teachers weren’t prepared to begin teaching African American studies at the high school level because they hadn’t been trained in it,” she explained. “And so, there was an outcry for training to help prep the teachers to begin that process this past academic year, and we took on the challenge. …We were one of the first.” 

Broadus and co-presenters Mario Salas and Charles Gentry decided the Academy should follow the state requirements, breaking their workshops into subjects including history, economics, culture, citizenship, geography, and government. 

“We divided those up based off of the areas we felt, between the three of us, we could address the best,” Broadus said.  

The trio settled on a format of a two-day workshop, devoting 40 minutes to each topic and giving attendees the opportunity for questions and discussion. They also provided resources for attending teachers, like a curriculum guide with topics they could use in their own classrooms. 

While the academy is geared primarily towards teachers, it is also open to students, school administrators, and community members. This diverse group of attendees enriches the experience for all, Broadus believes, as it allows ideas to be shared between people with a range of backgrounds and viewpoints. Broadus also says that a larger turnout can be especially beneficial for the teachers in attendance, as it allows for networking opportunities that may result in additional people or resources they can utilize in their classes.  

Additionally, Broadus extends an invitation to the UTSA community, including faculty and staff, and especially to UTSA’s student teachers. 

“We also invited our teachers to be,” she said, “because there’s a definite need for them to have the information. They’re getting ready to go in and teach in the classroom, so we’re definitely inviting our College of Education [and Human Development] undergrads.” 

Broadus describes this year’s academy, titled “Elevating Voices for the African American Studies Curriculum,” as a continuation of the previous one, rather than a re-introduction to African American studies. As such, those who attended the academy last summer are encouraged to attend again. 

“There’s going to be new material, simply because of the fact that we have decided to add new information,” Broadus said. “We’ve decided we needed to acknowledge the relationship to social justice, to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to other current events.” 

One example of updated content will be the Tulsa Race Massacre, and the destruction of the neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street.” 

“It was mentioned last year, but my goodness,” Broadus said. “There’s so much more that one can expand upon, just on that one topic, because it was all in your face in the last few weeks.” 

Broadus promises the academy will prove invaluable for teachers, even beyond counting toward their required professional development hours. 

“You’re going to get a wealth of information. …Unless you’ve been a pro historian, you don’t have all the information to provide to your class,” she said.  

Thanks to its online format, the academy is becoming popular with teachers outside San Antonio. 

“I’ve got emails in my inbox right now from Dallas, where teachers are wanting to sign up for the workshop,” Broadus said. “We’ve got Dallas, we’ve got Austin, we’ve got Houston and San Antonio ready to hear when we can sign everyone up. So, we’re getting that kind of support for what it is that we’re doing. I’m feeling the love in that respect.” 

Register here to attend this year’s African American Studies Teacher’s Academy. There is a $25 fee.

Even so, Broadus hopes to see the academy expand in the future, opening up to a larger audience of participants and presenters alike. In particular, she says she would like to see new tenure-track professors involved, as well as hearing from the district teachers who have been teaching African American studies.

In the meantime, Broadus says the African American Studies Teacher’s Academy just needs the support of the community and the university to continue, through attendance, advertising, and additional funding.

Christopher Reichert

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