Sonia Education. Later, she studied abroad in
Sonia Nieto is Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy and Culture at the School of Education, University of Massachusetts Amherst. With experience teaching students at all levels and from many socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, Nieto is one of the leading authors and teachers in the field of multiculturalism. She has won several awards in her field, most notably the 1997 Multicultural Educator of the Year award from the National Association for Multicultural Education, the 2005 Educator of the Year Award from theNational Council of Teachers of English, and honorary doctorates from Lesley University (1999), Bridgewater State College (2004), and DePaul University (2007).1Nieto was raised in Brooklyn, New York where she attended the public school systems until eventually attending St. Johns University where she received her B.
S. in Elementary Education. Later, she studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, receiving her M.A.
in Spanish and Hispanic Literature. In the following years she taught in Brooklyn and the Bronx until moving to Massachusetts and receiving her doctorate in curriculum studies with concentrations in multicultural and bilingual education, from the University of Massachusetts in 1979.2 In May 2017, Nieto delivered the commencement address for the Graduate School of Education at St. John’s University in New York City, where she reflected on her life work and her undergraduate days at St. John’s.Schools for a New Majority: The Role of Teacher Education in Hard TimesNieto, SoniaNew Educator, v1 n1 p27-43 Feb 2005In this article, the author identifies two current–and competing–discourses concerning teaching and public education in general.
One is the “official” discourse, embodied in “No Child Left Behind” language, with a focus on accountability, standards, credentials, and testing, accompanied by punitive measures for failing to live up to these. The other is what one might call the “discourse of possibility,” a way of thinking about teaching and learning that is embraced largely by teachers and others who view public education as an unfulfilled but nonetheless significant project in the quest for equality and social justice. This “unofficial” discourse is visible in books and articles that focus on the positive and uplifting work that teachers do and that champion teachers and defy the current damaging climate in education. As a result of these competing discourses, these are difficult but also promising times for those who view public education as the last and, in many cases, the “only” hope for fulfilling the society’s stated ideals of democracy. Schools can only serve this purpose, however, when at the very least, all children have access to teachers who are both competent and caring. It is little wonder, then, that a great deal of attention has lately been focused on the quality of the teaching force. In this article, the author expands on recent work that challenges current notions of what defines a “highly qualified teacher.
” Specifically, she focuses on what it means to be a qualified teacher for the “new majority,” that is, for students of racial and ethnic minorities, migrants and immigrants, and marginalized students of all backgrounds, especially those who attend deteriorating public urban and rural schools. She also reviews some of the findings and implications of her work with excellent teachers of urban students and suggests some qualities of truly “highly qualified” teachers, qualities that may not necessarily fit the definition proposed by “No Child Left Behind.”In general such teachers: place a high value on students’ identities (culture, race, language, gender, and experiences, among others) connect learning to students’ lives have high expectations for all students, even for those others may have given up on stay committed to students in spite of obstacles that get in the way view parents and other community members as partners in education create a safe haven for learning dare to challenge the bureaucracy of the school and district are resilient in the face of difficult situations use active learning strategies are willing and eager to experiment view themselves as life-long learners care about, respect, and love their studentsAFFIRMING DIVERSITY in classroomsThe Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (4th ed.)BY SONIA NIETONEW YORK: ALLYN ; BACON, 2004. 496 PP. $67.60Our schools reflect the sociocultural and sociopolitical context in which we live.
This context is unfair to many young people and their families and the situations in which they live and go to school, but teachers and other educators do not simply have to go along with this reality. I believe one of our primary roles as educators is to interrupt the cycle of inequality and oppression. We can do this best by teaching well and with heart and soul.
(p. xxii, italics added) In the fourth edition of an excellent educational resource for teachers and teacher educators, Sonia Nieto reiterates the urgency to create not only affirming classrooms for students but also an affirming society in which “racism, sexism, social class discrimination, and other biases are no longer acceptable” (p. xxii). In this text, she creatively engages readers in a critical exploration of how multicultural education can have a substantive and positive impact on the education of all students.
Like prior editions of the book, Nieto uses student case studies to illustrate the importance of implementing multicultural education that confronts issues of difference, power, and privilege in schools. Through student voices, she addresses how educators can challenge racism and other biases, as well as inequitable structures, policies, and practices of schools. As a former classroom teacher and current professor, Nieto states up front her assumptions that drive the creation of and analysis in this text. First, she believes that multicultural education is for everyone regardless of race, language, social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences.
Second, Nieto believes that while teachers may not be solely responsible for the failure of many students, they must take responsibility for their own actions, challenge the actions of schools and society that affect their students’ education, and help create positive change. Third, Nieto believes that public education is the last and best hope for many students today to have a better life, and that we should do all that we can to fight for it and defend it.