A kindergarten teacher from San Francisco and a 5th grade teacher from Los Angeles were two of only five winners selected nationally for the 2012 Teaching Tolerance Culturally Responsive Teaching Award. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project each year recognizes educators who have demonstrated excellence in teaching students from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Teaching Tolerance provided profiles and videos of the California winners:
Robert Sautter, a kindergarten teacher at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School in San Francisco, creates a bond of trust between himself, his students and their families. He opens his classrooms with a “community circle” in which students greet each other using their home languages. He also makes sure that students see themselves and their families in the books, artwork and photography displayed in his classroom.
Sautter also does home visits. “I consider it a privilege to be welcomed into my students’ homes knowing that, for some, having someone who represents an institution with which they may not have had many positive experiences is a tremendous act of faith,” he said.
Laurence Tan, a 5th grade teacher at 122nd Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, uses a unique social justice curriculum that combines lessons on African American, Latino and Asian American history with video games, social networking and YouTube activities. Tan also has helped establish the Watts Youth Collective with former students, “a grassroots organization of varying youth from in and around Watts coming together to change the community and themselves.”
Tan’s approach has been successful academically, but he also sets other goals. “The work we do in the classroom,” he said, “has been transformative for the community and the students.”