July 31, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Estevan Leyva

Estevan Leyva teaches Humanities at American Studies and Arts Academy at Franklin High School.  He has been teaching for 16 years and is the lead teacher of the American Studies and Arts Academy at Benjamin Franklin High School. His duties include curriculum development, budget management, maintaining and expanding partnerships, organizing PDs, and student events. Estevan is also a member of the E4E-Los Angeles Teacher Policy Team on Attracting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools.

Why did you become a teacher?

While studying at USC I was a student activist very focused on racism on campus, lack of diversity, and a lack of cultural diversity in the academic environment.  We created change by advocating for these things and addressing issues of poverty, injustice, and inequality.  I see teaching as my way of addressing these issues and helping to motivate the next generation of students to speak out on issues impacting their community.

You started a World History AP course for your school. What motivated you to take on that role?

I saw a lack of competitive offering for kids.  The California history standards really restrain the possibilities to help open students to all of the components of the world stage.  It often only focuses on issues affecting European countries and leaves out much of the world.  By teaching AP World History, I am able to open students’ eyes to a more global perspective and offer college level curriculum in high school.

What do you enjoy about teaching within a learning academy?

We have a partnership with Lehraman Institute of American History to help fund our mission at Franklin to use history, culture, law and the arts to ask students the same questions that they will be asked at the college level.  This allows me to find creative outlets for collaboration and curriculum design. We work across content areas to develop projects that are engaging, relevant, and give students a desire to learn on their own.  Students start with a deep critical thinking question and use multiple tools and sources to arrive at an answer.

Why did decide to join the policy team?

I see a connection between what I do as a leader and my role as an E4E member.  I am motivated to get my students to go beyond the classroom to engage larger unresolved questions and I was excited to work with teachers this same way to address the issue of attracting and retaining effective teachers.   We need to stop and ask the fundamental question of how do we recruit the highest quality educators for our students who so richly deserve them. 

Why did you join E4E?

I have been impressed with the hard work E4E is doing to engage the important issues affecting our schools and our classrooms.   I am excited to be part of an organization that works in an unconventional approach to educational policy. E4E brings teachers together to advocate for teacher-led and student centered change.  This needs to become the new normal, and I am excited to be a part of this movement from the start.