Back in the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center: 2022 Tragil Wade-Johnson Summer Reading Program

As of June 20, Marquette University’s Schroeder Complex and Hartman Literacy and Learning Center has been revived with the joyous and playful presence of boys and girls from Milwaukee-area schools participating in the “2022 Tragil Wade-Johnson Summer Reading Program. This year’s program features students from Notre Dame School, Messmer St. Rose School, Stellar Elementary, Milwaukee German Immersion, MacDowell, Siefert Elementary, Underwood Elementary, Downtown Montessori and Milwaukee College Prep.

Each day of learning begins at 8:30 a.m. with about 20-25 minutes of sports, physical activity in the front courtyard of the Schroeder Complex. Students then begin classes at 9:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. During their reading sessions, the students then go to the Hartman Center classrooms where they begin practicing vocabulary, fluency, phonetics, the alphabet, and reading comprehension with their respective educators. This year the summer reading program has 10 educators in charge of accompanying their students in their literary empowerment. The work and accompaniment of these educators is crucial to avoid summer reading melting, an effect that is overcome by providing students with an environment committed to literacy.

The program will end on July 22.

A partir del 20 de junio, el Complejo Schroeder y el Centro de Alfabetización y Aprendizaje Hartman de la Universidad de Marquette se han animado con la presencia alegre y lúdica de niños y niñas de las escuelas del área de Milwaukee que participan en el “Programa de Lectura de Verano 2022 Tragil Wade-Johnson”. El programa de este año cuenta con estudiantes de la escuela Notre Dame, la escuela Messmer St. Rose, la escuela primaria Stellar, la escuela de inmersión en alemán de Milwaukee, la escuela MacDowell, la escuela primaria Siefert, la escuela primaria Underwood, la escuela Montessori del centro de la ciudad y la escuela superior Milwaukee College Prep.

Cada día de aprendizaje comienza a las 8:30 de la mañana con unos 20-25 minutos de deporte, actividad física en el patio delantero del Complejo Schroeder. A continuación, los estudiantes comienzan las clases a las 9:00 a.m. hasta las 10:30 a.m. Durante sus sesiones de lectura, los estudiantes se dirigen a las aulas del Centro Hartman donde comienzan a practicar el vocabulario, la fluidez, la fonética, el alfabeto y la comprensión de lectura con sus respectivos educadores. Este año el programa de lectura de verano cuenta con 10 educadores encargados de acompañar a sus alumnos en su potenciación literaria. La labor y el acompañamiento de estos educadores es crucial para evitar el deshielo de la lectura en verano, efecto que se supera al proporcionar a los alumnos un entorno comprometido con la alfabetización.

El programa finalizará el 22 de julio.

Spring Book Recommendations from Dr. Vélez

Music is History by Questlove

Beginning with the year of his birth, Questlove takes the reader through a reflective historical journey of music, singers, and the stories behind them that shaped his childhood and life. The knowledge, passion, and history that Questlove integrates throughout this book is really remarkable. It is also one of those books that makes you feel as a reader that you are there engaging with the author directly. Questlove’s voice is so clear and engaging, and he weaves in personal stories that are truly remarkable. It is no surprise to me that he also is a professor at New York University. I would bet his course reviews are quite positive.

Lu by Jason Reynolds

Part of a young adult series, this short read tells the story of a star adolescent sprinter with albinism. My interest in the book was maybe piqued by being a runner in high school myself, but the book also addresses themes of identity, family, and peer groups quite well (and I especially appreciate as a developmental psychologist).  I don’t want to give too much away, but the story is quick, interesting, and led me down a road of reading the other books in the series telling the stories of Lu’s teammates.

This Is the Voice by John Colapinto

For months my partner encouraged me to pick up this non-fiction account of the importance, development, and intricacies of an underappreciated part of our bodies and social connection: our voice. She was right; as soon as I picked it up, I was engaged in the way the author weaves together a compelling personal, biological (i.e., what goes into the different ways we use our voice), psychological, developmental, and sociological story about the human voice. I learned so much in reading this work, and certainly think differently about different parts of my life, from my younger son’s emerging vocabulary, to listening to my favorite singers, to when my throat hurts after a long day of teaching.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

At times, I will admit, I struggled with keeping focus in what ultimately was a thought-provoking climate change novel.  The book is centered on the compelling story of the protagonist who runs a new office within the United Nations charged with addressing the needs of future generations. In other words, in the context of climate change and disasters, this office acts in defense of future people’s and their wellbeing. All in all, the novel opened my eyes to political dynamics and possible avenues of action in relation to climate change that I had never considered.

Do you have a book recommendation that you would like to share with Dr. Vélez? Send an email with your recommendation to!

Dr. Vélez is an assistant professor in the College of Education. He joined the Marquette community in 2019. To learn more about Dr. Vélez, be sure to check out our ‘getting to know’ article featuring him, by clicking here.

College of Education Student Featured in “Paying it Forward” series with Dr. Howard Fuller

College of Education graduate student, Saúl López, was recently featured in Marquette’s “Paying it Forward” series with Dr. Howard Fuller. Fuller, distinguished professor emeritus of education, retired from Marquette in 2020. An activist for educational opportunities, he joined Marquette as the Educational Opportunity Program’s associate director from 1979-1983. He went on to found the Institute for Transformation of Learning in 1995. Fuller has been an advocate of equitable education. And has also served as superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools.

In this four-part series, Fuller’s life and activism are highlighted through a series of conversations with students ranging from High School to Graduate school. The series hopes to foster conversations and inspire students and future activists. López, a Ph.D. student in the EDPL program, was part of the discussion titled, “Big picture lessons from efforts to improve education outcomes for students, particularly low-income Black students, in Milwaukee and nationwide” (embedded below) where he discussed the issues impacting both local and national educational spaces.

The full list of discussions can be found here.

College of Education Hosts MPS Community School Youth Councils During Finals Week

While Marquette students were busy taking finals and finishing up papers, the halls of the college of education were filled with the energy and zeal of high schoolers. A group of approximately 20 students from Bradley Tech, James Madison Academic Campus, and Washington High school came to Marquette as part of their Community School Youth Council facilitation. Dr. Julissa Ventura, Assistant Professor in the college of education, began collaborating with the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership back in 2020.

In room 112, the students were welcomed by Latrice Harris-Collins, Director of Community Relations & Outreach for Undergraduate Admissions. Where she spoke to students about finding their passion and getting to know themselves before committing to a particular major. After the energizing and motivating talk from Latrice, the students spent time learning how to carry out “Community Conversations” with their local leaders, teachers, and community members. 

Latrice Harris-Collins speaks to students about Marquette’s colleges and majors
Samira and Lesly speak to students about Marquette

For lunch, the students visited the Hartman Literacy Center and listened to some guest speakers. One of the speakers, Samira Payne, Director of Black Student Initiatives, spoke to students about campus initiatives to enroll, retain, and graduate underrepresented students. She also highlighted programs such as Urban Scholars and the Umoja: Black Living Learning Community. Along with Samira, Lesly Ventura, Resident Assistant at the Nuestro Hogar Living Learning Community talked about campus life and the importance of finding a community of friends and support. 

It was an absolute pleasure to have hosted these wonderful students. It is our hope that some students attend the College of Education and decide to pursue a career in education.

To learn more about the Community School model and about the different Community Schools in Milwaukee, click here

To learn more about Marquette’s college of education, click here.

Conexiones: Cristo Rey Trailblazers at Marquette

Jamonte Spencer, CRJ ’25
Working at his desk in the Hartmann Center

If you are to walk into the Hartmann Literacy Center on a Wednesday, you can expect to be greeted by a young man wearing a Cristo Rey uniform and a smile so big his mask can’t even hide it. Jamonte Spencer, Freshman at Cristo Rey, joined the College of Education this past semester as part of his Corporate Work Study assignment. I was able to sit down and chat with him about life and other things that are of interest to a ninth-grader. 

Jamonte enjoying a break in between work!

I interrupted Jamonte’s lunch, which consisted of a big bag of pretzels. When I asked him about what he did, he proudly showed me the pages sprawled on his desk and said, “I’ve been working on my blog posts.” These blog posts were filled with Jamonte’s edits and red ink. Jamonte explained to me that he was tasked with writing “catching up” blog posts meant to highlight the other great people working in the College of Education. He told me that he enjoys writing and that writing blog posts have helped him gain experience and help him put himself “out there” in the Marquette community. When he first found out that he would be writing blog posts Jamonte told me, “I was shocked. I didn’t know what to expect…But I [was] down for a challenge”. Since then, Jamonte has been scheduling interviews, sending follow-up emails, and working alongside his supervisor to draft and polish his blog posts. 

The blog posts have not been published yet but expect to see them soon. Jamonte says that the blog posts are just the beginning of his life plan. He says that his “main target” is playing football (he plays wide receiver), working hard at Cristo Rey, and playing Madden with his family and friends. Down the line, Jamonte hopes to own, operate, and run a business in Milwaukee. 

“It’s not really about the money.I want the money to help my community, Wisconsin and Milwaukee”

Jamonte also mentioned that one day he hopes to write a book about “life”. Wise words from a 14-year-old. But for now, Jamonte patiently waits to see his blog posts be published and carries the sort of wisdom and patience that is hard to find in other students his age. 

Ode to a Lecture – Or, Teaching Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches

Last week, I was forced to admit something: My students want me to lecture. They like it when I stand up and tell them things while they sit back and listen.

That feels sacrilegious to say, but it also feels true.
​For the past nine weeks, my colleague and I have been trying to craft an active, student-centered, place-based learning experience for our high school learners. Learners who, for one reason or another, have not passed social studies and are therefore in danger of not graduating. We know that virtual schooling during the pandemic was hard for many of them, but we also know that the problems with social studies in most high schools stretch much farther back than March 2019.

In his book Lies My Teacher Told Me (first published in 1995), sociologist James Loewen systematically showed the public how the standard history curriculum is often only loosely connected to historical fact. While his content analysis of textbooks was groundbreaking, the argument itself was not: people of color have been questioning the truth of history curriculum and the role it plays in maintaining white supremacy for far longer. For example, Carter G. Woodson wrote The Miseducation of the Negro in 1933In it, he argued that the lies of omission in schooling paint Africans and African Americans as “human being[s] of the lower order, unable to subject passion to reason, and therefore useful only when made the hewer of wood and the drawer of water for others” (p. 34). These dehumanizing lies served as the “perfect device” for controlling and subjugating African Americans. Similarly, in his 1963 “Talk to Teachers,” James Baldwin argued that the “bad faith,” “cruelty,” “brainwashing,” and “mythology” perpetuated by schools was nothing short of a “criminal conspiracy to destroy [the Black child]” (para. 19).

What Baldwin, Woodson, Loewen and so many others have been saying is that the myth-making that passes for history in America’s classrooms too often serves not as an introduction to the historical record nor as an invitation to inquire about our social world but rather as an elaborate justification of the racialized and racist social structure we live in.

No wonder, the group of mostly Brown and Black girls we teach on Wednesdays is failing social studies.

Now, I’m not saying anything about the specific teachers that my Wednesday students have encountered at their high school. I don’t know what happens in their classrooms. I’ve never spent any time in these classrooms. But I am saying that within our system of schooling in the United States, the social studies have served as one of the primary vehicles for passing on dominant narratives about the United States, narratives that likely run in direct opposition to what my Wednesday students’ lived experiences tell them.

Added on top of this curricular problem is the instructional problem we find in a lot of high school social studies classrooms: the ‘sage on the stage,’ where the teacher knows everything and students are passive receptacles waiting to be filled with names and dates to be regurgitated later on a test. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire called this the “banking” method of education, and he argued in his 1968 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed that it is a fundamentally dehumanizing process:

The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power…serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed (p. 73).

Again, I’m not saying that the teachers in my Wednesday students’ school engage in banking. I have no way of knowing that. But I do know that our current testing regime in the US is built upon this idea of students as empty vessels waiting for instructional communiqués, which they are expected to spit back out onto endless high-stakes tests.

In listening to these critiques of both curriculum and instruction—critiques that are especially common in the social studies—it becomes understandable why the students in our Explore MKE course may have checked out of past versions of social studies. This is why my co-teacher and I are so determined not to recreate those conditions during our weekly two hours with the students. We are trying to create a learning space that invites our students into historical and social inquiry, that incites curiosity, and that helps the students see themselves in history and the social sciences.

Which is why my students’ rapt attention to my lecture last week felt so wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I wasn’t interesting. (I was definitely interesting.) I’m just wondering why a moment of instruction that felt a little too much like what we’re trying not to do held their attention for far longer than the student-driven inquiry we had tried to facilitate for the hour before.

See, for the hour before my lecture on Milwaukee’s civil rights history, Candance and I had struggled to fully engage our students. We had prodded and brainstormed, coaxed and questioned, trying to get our students to identify something (anything!) in Milwaukee they wanted to learn more about and that could guide their final ‘project’—in quotes because all that project entails is putting a single pin on an interactive map of Milwaukee with some kind of explanation. While a handful of students ran with the task, most did not. “I don’t know anything about Milwaukee,” Tanya said. “There’s nothing interesting in this city,” Mayte said. “What about Jeffrey Dahmer?” Ana said. So Candance and I slowly moved around the room, working one-on-one with students in order to help them think through their lives in Milwaukee and the things that held their curiosity. Meanwhile, all those other students not deep in conversation with us were… FaceTiming friends at the grocery store. Playing CandyCrush. Folding origami. Teasing one another about their crushes. Napping.

Eventually, we made our way to every student, and eventually, every student found something that piqued their interest, but it felt like a slog to get there. And it took a lot of self-control from me and Candance not to police and manage how the students spent their time. After all, that’s not why we are here. Ultimately, we agreed that the “off-task” behaviors ended up providing a cognitive break for students, which in turn provided a generative space for them to sit with the task at hand. But wow—getting to that point was hard. We thought that giving students power over what we researched and experienced in our remaining time together would be inherently engaging, but it wasn’t. It was a task met with reluctance and, if we’re being honest, resistance.

That’s why when it was time to move onto the “schoolish” part of our session—where we would learn about Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches—I was nervous. I had spent hours over the past few days trying to figure out how to provide this historical content in a meaningful and relevant waybut in the end I wound up with my version of a lecture. Not a standing-at-a-podium-and-droning-on-monotonously kind of lecture, but a lecture nonetheless. It would be interactive and feature imperfectly drawn maps and timelines and strategically placed audio clips, but it was still, essentially, a lecture.

But here’s the rub: They loved it. They were so engaged—more engaged, it seemed than during the past hour and a half of student-driven inquiry. And in the moment, I was reminded of what my pre-service teachers (my undergrad students) tell me every semester. They tell me that they can’t get their students to do inquiry or active learning or creative projects. They tell me that their students are so much better behaved and engaged when they stick to a traditional instructional script. They tell me their students ‘can’t handle’ inquiry. They tell me their students whine when they are asked to think. They tell me it’s just so much easier to give a lecture and assign some questions. As I looked out at 25 young women, eyes glued to me and my messy map of Milwaukee, I worried that maybe my undergrads were right and that maybe I have been wrong all these years about what good instruction looks like.

But in that moment, I told myself what I tell my undergraduate students when they recount their failed interactive lessons or the chaos that ensued when high school students were asked to engage in independent research. I reminded myself that thinking is hard. It’s much harder than what schools typically ask students to do. Consuming information and spitting it back out is so much easier than designing and conducting an inquiry; it’s so much easier than navigating the peer relationships of cooperative learning or the physical demands of experiential learning. What’s more, schools give students very few opportunities to practice these harder skills because they are too busy prepping students for standardized tests. Of course, our K12 students prefer the easier path, but with practice and persistence, they will come to love the vibrancy of real intellectual work more.

All of this is true. But I realized in that moment that something else important is going on, too.

Learning involves gathering information—encountering it, processing it, making meaning out of it. Sometimes that information is most meaningful when encountered through students’ own questions and inquiries. Sometimes that information is most meaningful when unexpectedly revealed through a book or a movie or some other creative source. Sometimes that information is most meaningful when it blooms out of lived experience. Sometimes that information is most meaningful when it intersects with a skill to be practiced or acquired. And sometimes that information is most meaningful when it comes from someone you like or trust or respect. In other words, there are a lot of ways we gather information, and there are a lot of ways we learn. But what matters most across all of these is that what is learned is meaningful and relevant and true. And Milwaukee’s civil rights history (the topic of my lecture), when told honestly and completely, is all of those things.

As I outlined the route of marchers on the night of August 28, 1967, I asked if anyone knew why Milwaukee was called the Selma of the North. “I’ve seen the movie Selma!” Cara said. “That’s when MLK marched across the bridge.” I pointed to the 16th Street Bridge on our Milwaukee map. “This is where the marches in Milwaukee started. This bridge. And they went on for 200 nights.”

Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches were a youth-led movement, organized by the NAACP Youth Council in response to lived experience with Milwaukee’s housing segregation. When I showed pictures of Youth Council members, Aaliyah noticed that they were probably the same age as her and her classmates. What would have been their peers marched nearly four miles from Milwaukee’s North Side to Koszciusko Park on the South Side. The marchers had chosen this route specifically because it was called in Milwaukee “the quickest way from Africa to Poland,” a crass joke about the deep racial segregation in Milwaukee’s housing. As we went over the history of housing segregation in Milwaukee—redlining and highway construction, restrictive covenants, and white violence—students talked over each other to say that Milwaukee was still segregated. We remembered that we, a class split pretty evenly between Black and Latinx students, had not spent any time in one another’s neighborhoods, a fact we were regularly reminded of on our field trips. I also reminded them of their nervousness the first time we went exploring around St. Joan, which Jade said was because they didn’t belong to the neighborhood. As I talked, they jumped in with connections that made it clear that this history was still the world they lived in.

The lecture covered a lot: the wealth and vitality of Milwaukee’s Black neighborhoods before they were destroyed, the role of Father Groppi, how demographics have changed in the city, the federal Fair Housing Act, the 200 nights of marches organized by Black Lives Matter protestors this past year, the role youth play in current protest movements. We were learning history, and we were using history to make sense of the city we live in now. Yes, I was giving a lecture, but that lecture was proving to be a powerful way of encountering our city’s history together. And our collective meaning-making was changing how we understood Milwaukee in real-time.

On the first night of marching, the few hundred youth marchers were met halfway across the bridge by an angry white mob. That mob of thousands of white folks threw bottles at the marchers and carried signs saying “White Power;” they stood on cars and broke streetlights and wielded bats. That mob even scared the police, marchers later remembered, who begged Father Groppi to turn around and lead his youth back to their neighborhood. When I showed images of that mob, raging just outside the gorgeous Polish basilica we’d visited a few weeks earlier, Sheree raised her hand. “But my old social studies teacher told me that racism like that didn’t exist in Milwaukee. It was a Southern thing, not a Northern thing. Is that true?” The pictures of white crowds carrying swastikas and wearing KKK uniforms answered that question for her.

That afternoon, my students told me that they genuinely didn’t know that Milwaukee was an important city in the Civil Rights Movement. They told me that they genuinely didn’t know that the Civil Rights Movement happened in the North, too—angry mobs and retaliating police and all. They didn’t know that all around us was hallowed historical ground.

And that, I think, is what made that lecture so meaningful. It was the right method to introduce them to a slice of history that had been hidden from them, and it allowed us to make connections and ask questions together. I had information to share that I hoped would help them see their city in new ways. It’s not that they were empty receptacles waiting to be filled; it’s that I wanted to share what I know in the hopes that it would inspire them to ask more questions. I wanted them to meet their city anew, and they were grateful for the introduction.

What mattered most wasn’t how they encountered this history; what mattered most was that they were getting to encounter it all.

Dr. Gibson has given permission to have her reflections about this ongoing work with Dr. Doerr-Stevens and the students at St. Joan Antida shared from her blog The Present Tense through the Marquette EducatorEach week, we will share a post from Dr. Gibson about this ongoing journey. Please check back to read more about this exciting partnership and transformative learning process.

College of Ed. Book Recs: Dr. Gabriel Vélez

Reading has always been a part of my life and one of my go-to hobbies.  As a young kid, I loved the library—and recently have rediscovered this joy—and still have vivid memories of spinning their summer reading wheel to figure out what genre to choose next as I tried to get to the 10 book goal for vacation time. It was after one of these spins that I remember picking out a classic. It might have been a coming-of-age story like Catcher in the Rye or a dystopian story like 1984, but it was a classic.  As I delved into the book and was enjoying it, I started excitedly babbling about it to my parents, who were always supportive of my reading habits. I distinctly remember my father saying to me, oh yeah, I remember reading that. When I asked what he thought about it, he replied, oh I don’t remember what it is about.

At some point during my adulthood, this memory came back to me and stuck with me.  I was finding the same thing happening to me often; deep into a conversation with someone about good books, we find a point of connection and I can’t remember what the book was about.  So I decided to keep a list of every book I have read, with little notes about when and short synopses to jog my memory.  This list has stopped and started at different points in my life, but when I came to the Milwaukee area over two years ago, I began one that I still update to this day. I’ll be honest—I don’t include the ones we read to our children, since I don’t think I will have any trouble remembering the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar story after reading it for the 200th, 1000th, 15000th (who knows?) time. With almost 200 books on my personal list now, it is fun for me to return to look it over and return to some of my favorites. While I love becoming immersed in the stories and writing of each one, it is almost equally pleasurable—and a good way to remember my takeaways from them—to share this with others.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with our College of Education and the broader community, in no particular order, some of the recent books that have stood out to me.  

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This book is quite engaging.  Noah’s style and humor are interwoven with themes related to race, poverty, family, and childhood and adolescence (which of course always grabs my attention as a developmental psychologist). I admit that I have not seen much of Noah’s work before reading this book and was struck by how the depth of some of these themes is paired with such laugh-out-loud memories and stories.  It was a real joy to read, while still making me think and rethink what I thought I knew about South Africa and race.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

Another read that had me laughing and re-reading quotes to my family. This book is understated in that its main plot will most likely not grab you if you read a short synopsis, but the cleverness, the use of language, and the characters bring it to life and truly engage me.  Just to leave you with a sliver of both the profound and hilarious nature of the book, I offer this quote: “Everyone talking and thinking out loud, with no space or oxygen left for quiet statements and silence. In a way, it’s not just about being a spokesman for the National Mime Association, but a spokesman for silence itself.”

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar

Obie Is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar

I will be honest, I came across this story about a transgender middle school swimmer by accident.  In looking for new reads in the Wisconsin Public Library system through my phone, I often have no idea how the algorithms work to put books on my list of potential reads.  I chose this one a bit at random (it probably speaks to the cover design), but then found myself immersed in the story. I certainly can’t speak to the transgender experience or how this book represents it, but I will say that it opened my eyes to issues, lived realities, and resiliencies that I had not considered before. Reading it was felt like one of those great moments of your empathy being expanded as you consider the perspective of a character you had never deeply considered before.

Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett

Permission To Feel By Marc Brackett, Ph.D.

The author of this book is the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and creator of the RULER social-emotional learning curriculum. The book is a thoughtful articulation of his work and research to a public audience; unlike many pop psychology books, it does not attempt to be catchy or trendy but is quite genuine and sincere. He draws on his personal experience and offers evidence for the importance of considering emotion, as well as the challenges and concrete strategies for teachers, parents, and employers/employees to build emotional intelligence. One of the most striking takeaways for me was realizing how relatively limited my emotional vocabulary tends to be day in and day out.

Five Most Recent Books I Have Read (because I have to leave you with more)


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Dr. Gabriel Vélez is an assistant professor in the College of Education. He joined the Marquette community in 2019. To learn more about Dr. Vélez, be sure to check out our ‘getting to know’ article featuring him, by clicking here.

Remembering & Forgetting in Walker’s Point

Stand at the corner of 5th and National, and here’s what you see: An antique store, a dance studio, a purple-doored hamburger joint, and a row of Bubblr bikes for rent. The busy intersection is gritty, somewhere between industrial and cool, sort of gentrified but also still unpolished. The rumble of the interstate one block west is a reminder of the neighborhood’s centrality, as are the three rivers that border it.

This is Walker’s Point.

​Near this intersection on 5th Street is a hybrid hair salon/plant shop, Folia. Intricately carved wood pillars frame the windows, which are full of dripping monsteras and pathos. It’s the kind of shop where everything is hip: the elegant block lettering on the signage; the restored wood in deep auburn stain; the cellar doors locked tight with old-fashioned devices; the upcycled chandeliers; the cream city brick. It’s a spot that seems emblematic of the current vision for Walker’s Point, sitting at the crossroads of history, industry, and young urban money.

If you look next to the door, though, you’ll see a small medallion mounted on the brick: the designation of a Walker’s Point neighborhood landmark. No other information is given. Lucky for my students and me, though, we were walking the block with historian and native Milwaukeean Sergio González, and he filled in what the medallion left out. This building was the original home of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, the first mission established by Milwaukee’s Mexican community in 1926. And in this one building, with this one group of students and teachers on this one block of Milwaukee, we have a crystallized snapshot of how we remember and forget in our Milwaukee.

​When I told my Wednesday students that we were going on an expedition to Walker’s Point, I got a lot of blank stares. While two of the students were familiar with the neighborhood—specifically its Día de Muertos altars—the rest knew nothing. This surprised me. Half of my Wednesday group are Latinx, and Walker’s Point has the largest concentration of Spanish speakers in the state. Plus, Walker’s Point is Milwaukee’s “it” neighborhood right now; had they really not heard of Zócalo and the Selena mural and Purple Door Ice Cream?

Spoiler alert: They really hadn’t.

So when we walked into the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, the students had few expectations beyond wanting to make it to the food trucks before our bus left at 3pm. But so much instantly called out to us: Letterpressed posters in Spanish and English begging for better driving. Mosaic art declaring “Black Vidas Matter.” Spanish conversations in the background. Before we’d even gotten to the academic part of our visit, the girls were chatting with the mosaic artist, an alumna of their same Catholic school, as well as the gallery director, who used to work in the school’s admissions office. This place they didn’t know was just one step removed from spaces and places in Milwaukee that they considered home.
During the official “history” part of our visit, Dr. González told us the story of Milwaukee’s Mexican American community. He told us how Rafael Baez migrated to Milwaukee from Puebla in 1863; the first known Mexican immigrant in Milwaukee, Baez was an accomplished musician and a professor at Marquette University. The 1920s brought wider spread migration when the Pfister-Vogel Tannery imported labor from Mexico. Although the tannery was only concerned with a short-term labor supply, the Mexican American community that sprung up and stayed has since become an essential part of Milwaukee’s community fabric. And that community has been centered right here in Walker’s Point.

Yet so much of this fabric is being erased. Not completely—“Milwaukee’s too segregated for that,” locals remark—but still noticeably so. For example, a neighborhood landmark, the blockwide La Fuente restaurant, was recently demolished with little fanfare, its Selena mural crumbling to make way for a new condo development. A recent Washington Post article recommending Walker’s Point as a home base when visiting Milwaukee mentions none of this. Instead, the WaPo article vaguely says, “No one Milwaukee neighborhood gives a complete portrait of the city, but Walker’s Point comes closer than most. In addition to prestigious restaurants, this centrally located district is home to some of Milwaukee’s bustling sports bars, the liveliest gay clubs, and the tastiest tacos.” Amid the art galleries and mid-century furniture stores, glass pantries, and CBD shops, it can feel like Walker’s Point’s Mexican American foundations are being pushed aside to make space for the new Milwaukee. Folia and its silent history as the first Mexican American church in Milwaukee (the shop’s owners didn’t even know they were in a former chapel!) are emblematic of this erasure.

I think of this again a few days later when I hear Sergio on the radio, talking about the lack of National Historic Landmarks commemorating Milwaukee’s Latino community. “The way in which we recognize specific places as being historically relevant in many ways dictates what we think is important about who we are as a people. And the fact that Latinos don’t have any recognized place in the National Register speaks to that larger forgetting of a century-long history of our people in the state,” Sergio said. Even here in Walker’s Point, it can be easy to forget how important the Mexican American community has long been to Milwaukee.

Which was why we were here. When I first asked my Wednesday students what they wanted to explore about Milwaukee’s history, they rattled off the expected: The Pfister Hotel. The Pabst Mansion. The Milwaukee Public Museum. They also begged to head farther afield: the lakefront, the suburbs, maybe even Chicago. To them, exploring Milwaukee meant exploring a Milwaukee they didn’t consider their own. But here in Walker’s Point, we were reminded that, not only is all of Milwaukee our Milwaukee (case in point: Where did the Pfister fortune that funded the hotel come from? The labor of Mexican migrants right here in Walker’s Point), but all of Milwaukee is worth exploring. All around us is evidence of remembering and forgetting, and so much of what we forget is the history of communities that don’t build hotels, that don’t have the power to declare National Landmarks, that don’t have the wealth to resist demolition. Even more specifically, too much of the history we forget is the history of communities of color.

But I also wanted them to see that, even in the familiar parts of our city, there are layered histories just beneath the surface. For example, while the thriving Zócalo food truck part might seem at first glance like an emblem of gentrification, that surface-level understanding is complicated by the fact that the founder, Sergio’s cousin, has family roots in Walker’s Point. In fact, the González family (baby Sergio included) was once featured on the cover of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on the steps of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Walker’s Point, for a special issue on Milwaukee’s Mexican American community. Entrepreneurial success is understood differently when it is of the community, not replacing the community.

Or take Xela, the director of the arts center where we began our neighborhood visit. She is a newly elected member of the Milwaukee Public Schools board of directors. As a Milwaukee transplant based in Walker’s Point, she straddles this history and carries it forward into the present-day politics of our city and its institutions. She embodies Walker’s Point: past, present, future.

​I am reminded of this the week after our Walker’s Point visit when my co-facilitator and I introduce the students to their next task. They are going to collect stories in their own neighborhoods, just like we did in Walker’s Point. Photos, selfies, soundscapes, and interviews, they are going to think about what remembering and forgetting look like in their immediate worlds. As we learn about oral history from Professor Rob Smith, we ask who they might want to interview in their own neighborhoods. Whose stories in their communities were worth collecting? Jamila quickly offers up her grandma, and then the room is otherwise silent until Aracely sucks her teeth and says to the ceiling, “Nobody. Nobody in my neighborhood is worth interviewing.” There is a pause, and then voices speak up: “What about a barber?” “Yeah, or a corner store owner?” “I’ve got a neighbor that has lived here forever.” “Do you think I could interview the kids that sit on the corner?” Even as our list of potential interviewees grows, Aracely’s dismissive “nobody” sits with me, as if there are no stories worth collecting in her world. And that becomes the ultimate forgetting. But we refuse to forget, and so instead we all prod her with ideas as if to remind her: Your Milwaukee matters, and there are stories here worth collecting. Your Milwaukee is worth remembering, too.

Dr. Gibson has given permission to have her reflections about this ongoing work with Dr. Doerr-Stevens and the students at St. Joan Antida shared from her blog The Present Tense through the Marquette EducatorEach week, we will share a post from Dr. Gibson about this ongoing journey. Please check back to read more about this exciting partnership and transformative learning process.

Interested in learning more about undergraduate or graduate programs in the College of Education? Visit us online today!

Discovering Programs: Educational Studies & School Counseling ADP

By: Saúl López

Established in 2017, The Educational Studies Program is designed for students that are interested in empowering their community and those interested in looking at social issues related to education within a non-school environment. A major in Educational studies also offers flexibility of options, opportunities to develop educational programs, and work in various informal learning environments such as non-profits.

The Educational Studies Program offers the possibility to engage with the local Milwaukee community by working in non-profits that serve youth and underrepresented populations. Through the Educational Studies Major students will have the opportunity to have a yearlong internship with a local non-profit, recreational, or civic organization in your final year. For those who decide to pursue a minor, the length of the internship will be that of a semester. Students will commit to 120 hours a semester. Along with the internship, students will participate in seminars with Dr. Ventura where they will reflect and discuss problems in practice and come up with site specific projects that will meet the needs of the non-profits where the students are placed. 

A new component that has been to the Educational Studies Program is the ability to obtain Accelerated Degree Program (ADP) through the Counselor Education Counseling Psychology department. For Educational Studies students who are interested in becoming school counselors, the ADP allows you to take graduate level courses as a Senior and graduate with both a B.A and M.A within five years. Some of the benefits of pursuing the five-year program include, taking graduate courses as a Senior, saving money, and being part of a flexible program that caters to your educational needs. The first ADP cohort is currently underway, with the hopes of having the next cohort one ready to start the program next Fall. 

If the Major and the ADP program seems like too much of a commitment, the Educational Studies Minor provides an excellent selection of courses that will complement any student’s studies. A minor in Educational Studies would allow students to interact with educators and learn about the context of education from their peers. And if students decide to pursue a graduate degree in Student Affairs or in Educational Policy, the Minor provides relevant coursework that would make students strong candidates when applying to programs.

Dr. Julissa Ventura

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Dr. Julissa Ventura, Program Coordinator for the Educational Studies Major and Assistant Professor in the College of Education. As Dr. Ventura states that the Educational Studies Program, “[strives] to build critical educators. The Educational Studies program is definitely a program that reaches a wider range of students than just those who are interested in teaching”. This program is great for students, “who have a critical orientation towards education, practice and policy”. This program will provide students with a strong foundation for students interested in research, attending graduate school, and interested in enhancing their professional skills for the job market.

If you would like to learn more about the Educational Studies Program, please click here.

On Curiosity

By Dr. Melissa Gibson

It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.

Albert Einstein

What do you notice when you walk outside in the morning?

Me, I notice how the light is dappled differently through the east-facing trees in September than it is in July. I notice the smell of toasting bread from the corner bakery. I notice that some mornings the grass is heavy with dew. I notice the remnants of a car window smashed into the street. I notice an older woman rushing to the #60 bus and my neighbor languidly walking his dog with coffee in hand. Even in my own frantic race out of the house, I notice. And that noticing usually turns into wondering—sometimes on task (“What exactly is the dew point, again?” and “I wonder whose car got broken into?”), sometimes not (“Why is adult life just one big rush to get everywhere and still always end up late?”).

This is just the fabric of my mind’s life: noticing and wondering, wondering and noticing. In other words, I take for granted that I am curious and that curiosity drives my experience of the world.

Curiosity is a basic prerequisite for meaningful learning. We can, of course, memorize facts and practice skills without curiosity; we can get good grades and jump through academic hoops without curiosity. But meaningful learning, the kind that lights our souls on fire and can project us into states of flow, requires something more than external motivation. It requires curiosity.

It’s a stale lament—and often a deeply oppressive one—that students lack curiosity.  We teachers wonder what happened to turn our students from the curious little beings who asked so many “why” questions that we wanted to scream to the stony-faced, half-sleeping, resistant teens before us, but the answer is at least partly simple: School happened. The skill-and-drill of the standardized testing regime, the age-old banking of disembodied content, the grading of right and wrong answers, the sitting in desks with few opportunities to explore, the monotony of a teacher’s droning voice.

School happened.

What heartbreaking knowledge—both as a teacher who might perpetuate this mind-numbing system and as a human who has spent the majority of their life inside schools, fighting to hold onto a flourishing life of the mind. Layer in the exclusion and oppression that students of color, queer students, low-income students, neurodivergent students, and recently immigrated students face and one wonders how we don’t have a youth rebellion on our hands.

Except we do. It’s called disengagement.

There are 24 students in the weekly local history workshop that I am facilitating. 24 students who, for one reason or another, need to make up a high school social studies credit after disengaging. My charge for the thirteen weeks is to spark their curiosity about our city and the stories we tell about it. I have a whole host of instructional tools I’ll use—local history media, field experiences, oral history gathering, guest speakers, participatory mapping, food stories—but none of that means anything unless we cultivate curiosity.

​Here I am, on a bright Wednesday afternoon, our second together, checking students into their Covid seating arrangement before we head out on a neighborhood walk. Today’s objective is simply to notice the world around us. We are going to walk, cameras in hand, and observe the neighborhood. We are going to capture images of things that speak to us, whether because they are interesting or curious or funny or beautiful or for no reason we can articulate. We are going to notice and photograph, wonder and walk. And we’re going to call that history class.

Now, in the week prior and the week since, I have had to talk my trained-social-studies-teacher-self back from the ledge. What is this nonsense I’m doing? This isn’t social studies. What about the content and the standards and the democratic and discursive skills and…? Here I stop and remind myself: I am cultivating curiosity. Because before we can get to any of that, we have to be curious about the world we live in. We have to start noticing what this world is, and then start wondering: Why is it like this? How did it come to be? What else could it be like? Do I like it? Why or why not? What am I not seeing in the world around me? How does this world make me feel? What might those feelings be trying to tell me? If I want the “official” learning to be anything more than useless information (which they could access via Google anyways, so what would even be the point of that??), we need to be curious. We need to notice and wonder and, then, think and learn.

How do you accomplish that in two hours, once a week, with a group of reluctant social studies students? We started with a tree.

What is this? I asked the students while holding up a slice of tree trunk. What do the lines tell us? They of course knew: the rings tell us about the tree’s age. Yes, but when you’re walking down the street, what do you see? You might notice the tree is large and therefore probably old, but you don’t know how old; you don’t know when it grew slowly and when it grew quickly; you can’t see the scars of drought and flooding and fire. When we walk down the street, we see the bark of trees. We can stop there. Or, we can wonder: what stories does this tree have to tell us? What would I see if I could peel back this bark?

Of course, I’m not only talking about trees. And so I let Clint Smith help me out here. In his new book, How the Word Is Passed,  he explores how slavery is memorialized or forgotten at a variety of historical sites in North America and Senegal. In a recent NPR piece, he tells a bit of the story of Angola Prison, the largest maximum-security prison in the US. Angola is built on top of a former Louisiana plantation; today, incarcerated men—mostly Black—still work cotton fields under the rifles of overseers. That alone is a horrific layering. But in this interview, Smith talks about visiting the Angola gift shop (WTF, I know), where there are mugs for sale that say, “Angola. A gated community,” and where you can buy a twenty-foot poster of a white overseer watching out over a field of incarcerated Black men who are picking cotton. The image is in black-and-white, so you have to do a hard look to determine whether it is pre- or post-1863. And then you can go tour the barracks, take your picture on death row, and watch the men farming from your bus as you leave the Angola grounds. Smith asks in his book and in this interview, “How can such a place exist?”

My students are agape as they listen to the interview clip. I have, purposefully, chosen a horrific example of what we might see beneath the bark; it’s also an important example. What we take for granted as “just the way the world is” is often masking important perspective and history. How can we train ourselves to wonder how the world came to be this way—and then to care about the answer?

Next, we walk. Thirty minutes around East Town, a tony neighborhood near the lake and downtown, full of young professionals and college students. It’s the only neighborhood in Milwaukee served by the new, free Hop train. It is the neighborhood my students visit for school, but it is not their neighborhood. Their task is to document what they see in photos. They can do this free form, or they can participate in a photo scavenger hunt. What’s important is that they are noticing.

When we left for the walk, we were 150 minutes into knowing one another. They were polite but skeptical; they didn’t say much to me. When they came back thirty minutes later, they were new students. Their masks were off, so I could see their smiles. They were laughing as they ran towards school from all different directions. They traded phones to look at one another’s photos. They talked to me: Janel telling me about the church on the corner and how her grandma used to go there; Luz confessing she was scared to walk around the neighborhood without an adult. Mel and Shakira were on tiptoes watching the dance class practice percussion. Karen’s group showed us their video of Lake Michigan; Ashanti’s group laughed hysterically when we noticed they were all holding Panera cups; even Asia, who had not yet uttered a word in my presence, was talking with her classmates. The students were buzzing.

It was, of course, sunny. And it was, of course, warm. It was definitely Not School, and it was definitely novel to go strolling around the neighborhood with relative freedom. But when we returned to the classroom, the energy persisted. Without my prompting, the students whipped out their laptops and started organizing and sharing photos. Linda looked at me hungrily and said, “What’s next?” They dove into the storytelling task (“Tell a story about the neighborhood in three pictures”) and begged for more time than we had. When the bell rang, they were still working; we hurried through announcements and next steps while they gathered belongings and before they bolted.

Luz stopped at the door on her way out. “This was really fun,” she said, and then nodded goodbye.

​Someone looking at how we spent those 120 minutes could argue that we didn’t do anything. There was no content covered. There was no writing practice. There wasn’t a clear disciplinary connection. To an outsider, this might look like a high school version of playtime. And it was. Because in that playtime, something important happened: They noticed; they wondered. They laughed and explored. They were curious, and they left class hungry for more.

Dr. Gibson has given permission to have her reflections about this ongoing work with Dr. Doerr-Stevens and the students at St. Joan Antida shared from her blog The Present Tense through the Marquette EducatorEach week, we will share a post from Dr. Gibson about this ongoing journey. Please check back to read more about this exciting partnership and transformative learning process.

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