MERIDEN — Addressing members of the State Board of Education in the media center of Edison Middle School Wednesday night, Hiromi Lozano, a recent graduate of the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, spoke about her experience taking what a year before had been a newly implemented course in her school: Black & Latino Studies.
The Bridge Academy is an independent charter school that serves students in grades 7 through 12. The curriculum for the course that Logano spoke about was co-developed by the State Education Resource Center and the State Department of Education, after state legislators voted in 2019 to pass a law requiring local school districts across Connecticut to offer an elective Black, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies course in their high schools.
Lozano told the state board, she “will be forever grateful” to have been among the first students in her school to take such a course. Like Bridge Academy and other schools across the state, high schools in the Meriden area also piloted the curriculum last school year, before all districts were required to offer the course as an elective this academic year.
Lozano said she had never taken a class so dedicated to culture and history.
Altimatou Kao, another Bridge Academy alumna, shared a sentiment similar to Lozano, saying her own knowledge of Black history and culture had greatly expanded due to the course.
Their teacher, Denise Moller, described the course as the “most humbling rewarding course I have ever taught.”
“It’s a more inclusive and thus more accurate teaching of our history,” Moller said.
Maryam Wardak, supervisor of social studies for the Capital Region Education Council, described the implementation of the curriculum across the council’s high schools. In Wardak’s district, students gave similar feedback — they enjoyed learning about the histories of their own cultures and identities as well as the contributions of other cultures.
Wardak said in communicating about the course educators in her district emphasized the fact “this is a history course.”
“This is not an isolated course,” Wardak said.
CREC educators navigated a challenging schedule that included new professional development with the roll out of the new curriculum ahead of its first year.
Wardak said it was important to provide educators with time to learn background history for both sections of the course. Wardak described it as “remarkable to watch” teachers resume teaching the same course after their first go around with a new level of confidence.
Other educators who addressed the state board similarly described teaching the new courses in their school districts as humbling, inclusive and rewarding.
Charlene Russell-Tucker, acting state commissioner of education, said the state board was interested in learning about the rollout of the new courses.
“I hope one of the takeaways here is that there is a real commitment to make sure we also continue to improve,” Russell-Tucker said.