This upcoming summer, English teacher Ami Relf will be traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico. But don’t be fooled, this is not an ordinary trip solely dedicated to her own enjoyment. This experience will provide an insight into the culture of students and parents from this area of Mexico to better educate for the students on certain topics. The trip will encompass the humanities in Mexican culture; the old architecture, Mesoamerican literature, Archaeology, music and art. The program Relf will be attending is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, called ‘Mesoamerican Cultures and their Histories: Spotlight on Oaxaca’.
“Mexican culture has always been intriguing to me, and I have always wanted to learn about it,” Relf said. “To get the option to be in Mexico and learn about Mesoamerican culture is a wonderful opportunity.”
Relf teaches many Mexican and Mexican –American short stories in her freshmen classes, such as the popular novel, “House on Mango Street.” She hopes the experience in Mexico will provide her a more well–rounded background when teaching these stories.
“I think once Ms. Relf goes on this trip, she will come back and teach us [the students] a lot about the culture and interactions,” freshman Adrian Gomez said.
This is not Relf’s first educational journey. In the past, she has traveled to South Africa to learn about the history of the country, mainly focusing on Apartheid and former South African president Nelson Mandela. Relf also said that, on her trip to South Africa, she studied slave narratives and Jim Crow laws. This trip to South Africa led to her encouragement of students to read novels like, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as well as to study court cases like Plessy vs. Ferguson. Relf states that having a deeper understanding of African society has helped her students further understand these serious topics.
“Many people do not understand what it’s like to be from somewhere else until we have experienced it on our own,” Special Education Division Head Richard Carlson said.
In order to be chosen for this trip, prior teaching experience, an essay and a colleague recommendation were required. Carlson was one of three colleagues that wrote Relf a recommendation.
“Relf is very aware of other cultures and this is another opportunity for her to see them and bring that into her classrooms,” Carlson said. “She has been doing this for many years and this could open the mind of teachers and students to be aware of other people’s backgrounds.”
Relf was one of 30 teachers out of 240 selected to participate in the program. Not only will participants be devoting their time to the studies of Oaxacan culture, but they will also be given the opportunity to experience the city firsthand.
“I am just excited about the beauty of the people, the landscape, the culture, the language and just being able to have this experience and bring it back to my students,” Relf said. “The students’ love my stories and have inspired me to go on this educational journey.”