How Do You End Discipline Disparities?
Luis Regalado is a fourth-grade teacher at Aurora Charter school, Minneapolis Minnesota. In this interview with teacher leader Maya Kruger, Luis discusses community building in his classroom and beyond and shares about his passion for ending racial disparities in discipline.
Maya Kruger (MK): Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Luis Regalado (LR): I got into teaching because I was a coach back home in Mexico. When I came to the U.S. it became a priority for me to understand how the education system worked here. As I was contemplating becoming a physical education teacher, I realized that teachers of color were desperately needed here in Minnesota. I wanted to be able to reach more students, not just in physical education but in core curriculum classes such as math, reading, and science.
MK: Which E4E-Minnesota campaign issue are you most passionate about?
LR: I’m most passionate about ending racial disparities in discipline. Our students need to feel welcome. They need to see themselves succeeding in school. If they aren’t in the classroom, this is not going to happen. Teachers need to take the lead in building relationships and understanding their students. We need to be there for all children, not just the children who are excelling academically.When we overly rely on suspensions to discipline students, we’re sending the message that some of our students don’t belong in our community.
As a teacher, it comes down to proactively providing a lot of structure within my classroom that prioritizes rigorous academic instruction and empathy to avoid having to send students out of the classroom. I come from el barrio, a term used for a poor neighborhood, not just in Mexico but around many cities. El barrio is part of my identity, my friends, my economic status. In el barrio you find solidarity, creativity, fight for justice, and that experience helps you to see and appreciate life in a different way. And I know how hard it can be. I know that sometimes our students live in conditions that aren’t stable. I work hard to reach everyone in my class and to help them understand that they can succeed academically and go to college, even though they may be the first person in their family to do so.
MK: Why is it important for teachers to become involved in policy and advocacy outside of their classrooms?
LR: As educators, we inherently should work for social justice. The more that we know about what is happening at the Capitol, the more we can help legislators understand educators’ perspectives and share the voices of our students and families. We have to become familiar with the content of bills that are moving forward so we can communicate them back to the families and communities that those bills will affect. My job doesn’t start and end in the classroom each day. I am a part of my school community. It is my job to push for social justice for our community.