Ethnic studies class teaches students to become more open-minded


Eighth grade students, Lilibeth Ruiz and Brandon Vasquez with ethnic studies teacher, Marytza Melchor. The vocabulary words and topics students are currently learning.

Damaris Carranza

Marytza Melchor, an ethnic studies teacher at Animo Jefferson, is one of only two middle school teachers in all of Green Dot who teach this elective. She is a history teacher, but started teaching ethnic studies only two years ago. This year she only has one class of 33 students who have the elective.  


Melchor wasn’t the first teacher at Animo Jefferson to teach ethnic studies, though. She took the place of the previous teacher of ethnic studies, Sehrish Jamshed, who moved to Seattle, Washington when her husband was offered a job at Microsoft.  There were three other candidates, who were all history teachers, that were also considered to become the new ethnic studies teacher.


Melchor said, “I knew that I had to step up for it because I know it was going to be a lot of work but I also knew I was the perfect person for it because based on my background, based on what I’m passionate about.”


Melchor is Mexican-American and while in college she took Chicano studies, so ethnic studies’ topics aren’t too new to her.


Melchor said, “I try to connect it to things that are happening now, so that it’s not just another history class and it’s not just teaching different standards from history curriculum.”


Ethnic studies focuses more on the cultural side of everyone’s history. This has allowed students to better know the cultural background of their ethnicities.


Eighth grader Lilibeth Ruiz likes the fact that in ethnic studies, it doesn’t really focus on specific events, instead it focuses on how those events affected different groups of people. She likes the way the class is so “open and [she] talks to us about stuff that history doesn’t.”


The vocabulary words and topics students are currently learning.


One of the more recent themes or topics that students have learned in ethnic studies is migration, specifically from Central America.


Brandon Vazquez, another student of Melchor, said, “Even though I am not from Central America, my parents migrated, and I could relate on how difficult it is for a family to get used to a new living condition in a different country and a different language.”


Other topics that students have learned about are identity and race.


Ruiz said, “  …kids should have a history of their cultures and who they really are or where they came from.. ”


Many students have now learned about not only their cultures, but the cultures of other people including African-Americans, Germans and Chinese workers, as well as people from all over Central America.


Vazquez said, “It’s interesting. It really grabs my attention… I like this class.”


Another student who also felt the same was Ruiz.


Ruiz said, “It’s a unique class. Not everyone has it.  We’re the only ones so it makes it makes us feel kind of special, and we learn about topics we wouldn’t learn in other classes. Miss makes the class and lessons fun.”