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Milwaukee ESL teacher helps students learn English and keep them connected to their own cultures

Ms. Miraz at South Division High School
Posted at 1:37 PM, Oct 01, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Francisca Meraz is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teach at South Division High School in Milwaukee going above and beyond to make sure her students feel represented.

"I'm not just here to make them learn English, I want them to be bilingual or multilingual. So remembering that their language and their roots are so important," Meraz said.

She also knows first hand just how important ESL classes can be for students beyond the classroom, she herself was an ESL student growing up.

"I am a Latina, Mexican teacher and I want my students to feel represented and proud of themselves," she said.

And you can feel the pride her students have walking into the college writing class she teaches for advanced students.

"[The class] is so important for me because it communicates with my culture and also my teacher is Hispanic and she understand a little bit more because she's Hispanic," said senior student Yessica Tenahua. Tenahua's family also has roots in Mexico.

Meraz is also helping the students in her college writing class get a head start on higher education. When students pass the class they also earn four college credits from UW Milwaukee.

And it's not just Hispanic and and Latinx students Meraz teaches. She said there's also a lot of South East Asian and African students in her classes at South Division.

She also said there are difficulties when it comes to finding inclusive material for her classes.

"When I try to find materials online, a lot of the time they won't have faces that represent my students' faces or references that don't match my students' experiences," she said.

But, that doesn't stop her from making her curriculum more inclusive for all students.

"That's one of the most important things for me to do as a teacher is to make sure that my students' cultures are reflected and represented in the curriculum... so, I spend a lot of time editing the curricular materials," Meraz said.

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