Few professions in America have more daily interaction and long-term impact on immigrants than teaching. As teachers listen and get to know their students deeply, they impart not only knowledge, but orientation, hope, and guidance in a new reality. Teachers get the opportunity to introduce America to a whole new group of Americans, and create atmospheres for learning that bring all types of students together.
In 2017, our school district put out a call for stories from teachers about their experiences with immigrant students. We wanted to better understand and respond to the impact of immigrant and refugee arrivals in our classrooms. What emerged is a collection of stories authored by educators who are truly changing the world. The stories are as varied as the students themselves. Some are uplifting and lighthearted; others are tough. Teachers are front-line observers to everyday happenings in their community, and here we get a glimpse of their unique perspective, insight, and compassion.
El Cajon, where we teach, is a national refugee resettlement destination. Our district has received over 850 newly arrived students in the 2016-2107 school year alone, from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and a handful of African and Latin American countries. In total, refugee children comprise over 19% of our student body, nearly 1 in 5 students in our district.
We have been careful to protect the confidentiality and cultural traditions of students described in this book. We have not used their real names, and pictures are not necessarily of students described in the stories. Teacher names are presented with the level of confidentiality preferred by the teacher.
We’d love to hear from readers of this book. Are you an ally hoping to do right by immigrant and refugee kids? Please reach out to us with your thoughts and ideas.
Cajon Valley Union School District
Family & Community Engagement Officer