Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

September is national Hispanic Heritage Month, officially beginning Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In celebration of this month, West Chester University hosted, for the very first time, Integrating Hispanic Heritage Month in the classroom on Saturday Sept. 13. The workshop was an exciting six hours of activities throughout Sykes Union Building providing participants knowledge and interesting facts on the Hispanic heritage.

Starting off the day with an introduction given by Dr. Martha Drobnak from the Elementary Education Department and Dr. Idna M. Corbett from the Undergraduate Studies and Student Support Services the excitement for this very first workshop was evident.

The workshops first speaker, Johnny Irizarry, is the director for the Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina at the University of Pennsylvania. Irizarry proved to be an extremely knowledgeable man as he explained the significance of Hispanic art history in today’s society.

Following the Keynote Speaker, there were a series of workshops.

Participants were given the opportunity to control which workshops to attend. Concurrent Workshop A offered Follow-up Question and Answer with Keynote Speaker Irizarry, An Academic Expedition for Teachers to Guanajuato, Mexico lead by Gail Bollin of the Elementary Education Department, and the Afro-Latino Experience conducted by Tina Malkin-Fontecchio of the History Department.

Bollin presented a slide show explaining an annual trip to Guanajuato, Mexico with students from West Chester University and the experiences had. Malkin-Fontecchio exposed students to the history of Afro-Latino Americans and what it means to be Latino in America.

In workshop B, participants were scattered among workshops focusing on West Chester University Latino Student Panel and their experiences in American classrooms, Tapping your Library for HHM Teaching Ideas, and Hispanic Cultural Beliefs and Values: their influence on the transition to elementary school. Members of the Latino American Student Organization (L.A.S.O.) shared their feelings with participants of what it is like adjusting to a new environment and being singled out.

Mame Purce of the Francis Harvey Green Library expanded knowledge on the multiple sources available in a library that can enhance the incorporation of Hispanic culture into oneís classroom. As a third option, Nelly Arévalo of Maternal Child and Healthy Consortium assisted the future teachers understand the key cultural concepts of Hispanic families including family, discipline, religion, respect, trust, and personals.

The final workshop provided the opportunity to participate in more interactive activities including, Hispanic/Latino: which one? Bringing Salsa, Meringue, Samba, and Mariachi into your Curriculum, and Piñata Making with Local Mexican Experts.

Linda Stevenson of the Political Science Department discussed where the terms Hispanic and Latino originated from and how teachers, with the right amount of sensitivity and good humor, can make the transition for these students a breeze.

Marc Jacoby and J.C. Dobrzelewski of the Applied Music Department made an attempt to break down delicious food and what seem to be complicated dance moves into terms participants could better relate to and understand.

Loretta Perna and a brave group of students from Kennett High School led a “Piñata Making” workshop giving a brief history of the piñata and followed with a lesson in piñata making.

Final concluding reflections and evaluations were considered to receive feedback and ways of improvement for the annual event. Participants received their certificates of attendance.

With a quickly growing Hispanic population in the United States, this was a chance for students to take part in a national celebration and allowed participants to understand what it is like to be a Hispanic student in an American dominated setting.

The workshops that were open provided future educators with useful information on how to incorporate this Hispanic Heritage into their classrooms enabling teachers and students to feel comfortable in a setting.

As one walks the sidewalks of West Chester’s campus, town, and public locations, take note of the Hispanic faces that pass with a better understanding and respect for who they are, their culture, and their values. There will be more information about Hispanic Heritage Month throughout September.

Maggie Cosgrove is a third- year student majoring in elementary education with a minor in reading. She can be reached at

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