Things That Matter

Here’s Why Roxana Dueñas, A Teacher In Boyle Heights, Became The Face Of The LA Teachers’ Strike

Roxana Dueñas remembers walking through the streets of Boyle Heights to get to school. She attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, which was the site of the 1968 walkouts. During the 1968 walkouts, Chicano students protested unequal treatment. Today, Dueñas is walking those same streets leading a new protest but this time as a teacher. She is one of the thousands of teachers striking on behalf of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) as they seek higher pay and better classroom conditions. She has also quickly become the face of the LA teachers strike as her image has been seen on posters, billboards, and classroom walls across Southern California.

Roxana Dueñas is steadfast and determined in the LA Teachers Strike poster urging people to “Stand With LA Teachers!”

Credit: UTLA

Dueñas, 34, has taught history and ethnic studies at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights for the past nine years. Growing up in the neighborhood was a big reason she wanted to return and teach there after graduating from UCLA with her master’s in education. It was her time at UC Santa Barbara, however, where she learned about Chicano studies and how was she was devoid of the history that happened at her own high school.

“My high school experience was positive for the most part but when I took my first ethnic study class in college I learned that my high school was part of the Chicano walkouts,” Dueñas said. “They never taught us about it and it made me realize not everyone had the same experience as me growing up.”

That’s why she made it a mission to create a learning environment where students could learn about their culture. In 2014, her and two other teachers created an ethnic studies curriculum that taught students about the local Chicano history that happened in their neighborhood. Her colleagues and students acknowledge her commitment and passion for teaching, it’s also a big reason why she was chosen to be highlighted on a poster.

Ernesto Yereno, a local Boyle Heights artist, chose to highlight Dueñas because he knew what her image represents in the majority Latino school district.

Credit: Ernesto Yerena

Yerena, who has a studio in Boyle Heights, met Dueñas after realizing they had mutual friends and shared similar views. After the UTLA approached him about creating some work for their campaign, he knew Dueñas was the perfect embodiment of what the strike should be representing.

“Roxy is an awesome teacher and an even better person. A lot of the kids look up to her in the community,” Yerena said. “I knew what impact she would have so it was a no-doubter to have her as the face of the strike.”

The 32-year-old artist specializes in political art, particularly work that highlights Latino people and culture. He says that highlighting a person of color is important especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where less than 11 percent of students are white and 66 percent of teachers are people of color.

“A lot of times people tell me they see themselves in my work and, as brown people, we never see someone like us so when they do its a big deal,” he said. “Representation matters especially a majority Latino area like this. Growing up all I had were white teachers so Roxy is a mirror image of who she is standing up for on the picket lines.”

Dueñas recalls two young girls asking to take a picture with her and having her one of her students show the poster as her lock-screen image. “To me it’s unbelievable and it empowering to see young girls look up to you. It makes me feel like we’re on the right side.”

Dueñas says she is humbled by the artwork and wants it to remind people of the importance of the changing demographics in this country.

CREDIT: Empan16/Twitter

When asked what it means to not only be the face of the strike but have it be a Latina, Dueñas said she hopes it’s the start of a shift in representation.

“I’m optimistic,” she says. “It means there’s a change in terms of the demographics of our teachers and the students they serve in their communities nationwide.”

She acknowledges that school is more than just a place to learn for many students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The majority of students are low-income as more than 80 percent of its students get free or reduced-price lunches. Parents use school as daycare, a place where their children get fed and foster relationships with teachers especially here in East LA.

“That’s the driving force behind our school site. They are more than just academic learning centers but a place where they foster relationships with teachers,” Dueñas said. “You can’t serve without observing the other. These things are interconnecting and our young people have a broad range of needs.”

The LA Teachers Strike has brought support from students and parents that Dueñas says reminds her of why she got into teaching in the first place.

Credit: Twitter/JosephBrusky

“It all has definitely been humbling and really its surreal to see my face everywhere,” Dueñas said. “I was pouring rain the first four days of the strike and we had parents and students come by to show their support, I can’t put that into words.”

Dueñas, whose father was a cook and had a stay-at-home mom who immigrated from Mexico, says she’s been approached by many parents thanking her for taking a stand for their children’s education. She understands the sentiment and the responsibility she has not only as a teacher but as a role model in the working class neighborhood she grew up in.

As union leaders and teachers reached an agreement after six days of picketing, Dueñas says addressing issues like smaller class sizes and hiring more support staff is more imperative than ever. She says the strike was bigger than just one demand but an attempt to transform a place of learning especially in communities of color like Boyle Heights.

“When I see my students for the first time after the strike ends, I want to tell them one thing,” Dueñas said. “I want them to see that organizing works and I hope more importantly they can see themselves making a difference in their own community.”


READ: As LA Teachers Go Into The Second Day Of Their Strike, A GoFundMe Campaign Is Bringing Tacos To The Picket Lines

Share this story by hitting the share button below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

The Principal Of A Florida School Was Captured Spanking An Undocumented Six-Year-Old Student With A Paddle

Fierce

The Principal Of A Florida School Was Captured Spanking An Undocumented Six-Year-Old Student With A Paddle

Corporal punishment includes all sorts of cruel physical acts. They range from spanking, slapping, force-feeding, and pinching to pulling, twisting, and striking with an object. The act of corporal punishment has long been criticized for its part in causing greater damage than intended.

Though the effects might bring around immediate compliance, researchers have underlined that such changes in behavior are often only short-term and can increase aggressive behavior. Perhaps this is why the act has varying legal statuses across the country.

Elementary school principal Melissa Carter is learning her own lesson from corporal punishment, but not as the receiver.

The elementary school principal from Florida is being investigated by local authorities after her use of corporal punishment on a 6-year-old student was captured on camera.

Principal Melissa Carter and school clerk Cecilia Self used a paddle on the student last month as punishment for damaging a computer screen. According to local CBS affiliate WINK News, corporal punishment was performed on the child in front of their mother. The mother used her cell phone to record the paddling in a clip that has gone viral.

According to WINK News, a female employee from the school contacted the child’s mother on April 13 after her daughter allegedly damaged a computer.

The mother of the child, who speaks Spanish and not fluent English, said that she was confused by the allegations made against her daughter during the phone call. During the conversation the school employee had mentioned “paddling” but the mother didn’t understand what that meant because of her language barrier.

She had been under the impression that she had been brought to the school to pay a $50 fine. Instead, she was taken to Principal Carter’s office where her daughter and the principal were waiting.

Carter soon brought out a wooden paddle and smacked the six-year-old on the backside. The video recorded by the mothers shows the little girl crying in pain during the attack.   

The mother claimed she resisted intervening because she feared having her immigration status brought into question.

“Nobody would have believed me. I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school,” told the local news about the incident. “The hatred with which she hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that, really I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her. I had never hit her.”

Bret Provinsky, the mother’s attorney, said the State Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case to see whether they will pursue criminal charges against Carter and Cecilia Self.

Self was meant to translate for the mother, but the mother said she did not do so. “That’s aggravated battery. They’re using a weapon that can cause severe physical harm,” said Provinsky. “The child is terrified, she feels vulnerable. There’s nothing she can do in the hands of these adults, who treated her so brutally, savagely, sadistically.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

A Black Teen Earned Over $1 Million In Scholarships From 18 Colleges That Accepted Her

Fierce

A Black Teen Earned Over $1 Million In Scholarships From 18 Colleges That Accepted Her

Shanya Robinson-Owens applied to over 20 colleges and has been accepted into 18 of them.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the high school senior has also been offered more than $1 million in scholarship money. The 17-year-old Philadelphia teen currently attends George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science but is headed towards a pretty bright and educated future.

According to a recent interview with “Good Morning America” the star student earned $1,074,260 in scholarships.

“We are overjoyed,” Robinson-Owens aunt told the show in a recent interview. “I knew she wouldn’t have a problem getting into colleges, but we didn’t know they would award her this much money in scholarship funds.”

Shanya, who was accepted to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; La Salle University in Philadelphia; Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri; Temple University in Philadelphia and Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, told GMA that she “wasn’t really expecting it” so many offers let alone so much money.

The senior currently holds a 3.2-grade point average and is a member of the school’s yearbook committee. She also works as an intern alongside her Chinese language teacher.

When it comes to the advice she’d give other students, Shayna says it’s important to “take your time” with your work and the application process.

“You really have to be patient,” Shanya explained. “Stay focused. If you need to have some time away, it’s OK. You can tell your teachers that because they know you’re stressed.”

“We’ve always been extremely proud of her,” Shanya’s aunt, Christine Owens, explained to GMA. “My mother has helped raise Shanya since she was a baby. We’ve just been working as a team making sure Shanya keeps God first in anything she does and she is succeeding.”

Speaking about Shanya, her school principal Ted Domers told GMA that Shanya is a “well-respected student at her school.”

“In addition to being a part of a movement to bring more social action to our school, she’s involved in a number of extracurricular activities that show the breadth of her skills, from robotics to journalism,” Domers explained. “It is a privilege for us to count Shanya as one of our own and we are excited to see her create opportunities for her future.”

Shanya has yet to make a college pick.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com