Inland Empire educators aim to teach Black history all year long – San Bernardino Sun

While many Inland Empire schools observe Black History Month in February, innovative teachers are blending African American history into lessons all school year.

Nalik Davis Jr., who teaches ethnic studies at Rialto’s Eisenhower High School, is one such educator.

“Black history is ingrained and embedded in the curriculum throughout the year,” Davis said. “It’s not just a one-month thing for us.”

In Murrieta, Rail Ranch Elementary School third-grade teacher Marguerite Rucker looks for ways to incorporate Black history into teaching whenever and wherever it fits — including in such subjects as reading, math and science.

When she teaches history, Rucker said she puts the African American experience in the context of U.S. history.

“Black history is everyone’s history,” she said during a recent video meeting of Murrieta Valley’s African-American Parent Advisory Council. “We’re not just teaching Black history, we’re teaching the history of our country.”

Rucker, whose two grown children went through Murrieta Valley schools, is a council co-lead.

California’s education standards call for “aspects of the Black experience” to be incorporated into all subjects and be addressed throughout the school year, Riverside Unified School District spokesperson Diana Meza said.

In anticipation of Black History Month, the Riverside district gave teachers in late January extra lessons on Black historical figures and achievements, Meza wrote in an email.

What students are actually taught, however, varies widely from classroom to classroom across the region, said Wil Greer, director of equity and targeted student achievement for the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

Much, he said, depends on the creativity of teachers.

It shows. Many students go to college with scant knowledge about such crucial historical events in the lives of African Americans as reconstruction and passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, said Jasmin Young, a UC Riverside assistant professor of ethnic studies.

“They will come in and know that Martin Luther King had a dream,” and little else, Young said.

So, in meeting students where they are, Young introduces basic concepts — and expands on them.

At the same time, there are examples of K-12 teachers around the Inland Empire who creatively — and thoroughly — teach Black history. Special events this past month have accented those efforts.

A couple weeks ago, for example, Greer attended an eighth grade Advancement Via Individual Determination class at San Bernardino’s Del Vallejo Middle School, in which the teacher called students’ attention to a newspaper article about historically Black colleges and universities. The teacher said those institutions are an option for African American students looking to continue their education beyond high school, Greer said.

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