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How Howard University Spotlights Black History in Teacher Preparation

2024 Best Practice Award in Support of Global and International Perspectives Winner

Receiving the Best Practice Award in Support of Global and International Perspectives at the AACTE 2024 Annual Meeting was a complete honor. It was not lost on us, a historically black college and university (HBCU), that we received this acknowledgment for a program that celebrates and studies the lifestyles, cultures, histories, and lived experiences of those from the African diaspora during Black History Month.  

At Howard University, the study of Black history is not confined to one month, but Black History is woven throughout the programming, curricula, and the practices in our teacher education programs throughout the year. Our Elementary Education program ends with a culminating international experience where teacher candidates get to participate in a weeklong cultural immersion experience engaging in a breadth of activities and experiences that fully immerse them in the culture of the country. Our travel thus far has been to Cuba and Colombia (Cartagena, Cali, and Palenque). Palenque, the first free town in the Americas founded by those who fled slavery during Colonia times, always seems to be a favorite learning experience for the teacher candidates. The locations chosen have large populations of those with shared African heritage and where English is not their first language. While this international experience takes place in the Elementary Education program’s final semester, much of the learning and activities that happen throughout the time in the program have led to this final initiative.  

Leading up to the international experience, as juniors, our elementary education students take an English Language Learners (ELL)/Emergent English Learners course, and as seniors, in their final year, they complete a field placement in a bilingual classroom. Our teacher candidates have an opportunity to share the food, culture, educational experiences, and socio-political landscapes as they impact our schooling and lived experiences in the United States through presentations at universities, while the students in the host country also share presentations highlighting the same. This program allows the teacher candidates to see the global interconnectedness of those in the African diaspora and it allows them to experience the shared culture while at the same time learning from the existing differences.  

As we reflect on Black History Month, and our teacher education programs, we can look for authentic ways to not just acknowledge contributions and demonstrate appreciation, but we can examine transformative ways to incorporate critical thinking and integrate Black history into our curriculum examining societal and structures experiences of Black people not just in the United States but also abroad.

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