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"Because I Went Through the Same": Inquiring into the Lived Experiences of an Immigrant Teacher.


Ten years after emigrating to the United States and working as a preschool teacher for a number of years, I became a doctoral student and instructor at my current graduate school. While teaching a student teaching seminar course, I often saw one of the student teachers, Daria (all names used in this paper are pseudonyms), staying after class to work with another student teacher. Daria was a veteran teacher working on her master's degree. It seemed like Daria was asking questions about her course assignments and that the other student teacher was explaining the assignments in Spanish. Daria is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and is a teacher at a Head Start preschool program that services low-income families, often recent immigrants and their children, in New York City. Daria is dedicated and hard-working, and has demonstrated excellent teaching and caring practices. I was especially impressed by the ways in which she carefully enacted her sensitive and caring pedagogy towards the immigrant children in her kindergarten placement classroom.

As I was conducting a research study on immigrant teachers, I invited her to join the study. She responded to my invitation with an apology and a question, "I'm sorry, but are you sure that you want to interview me because you know my English...?" In her apologetic statement, I somehow saw myself. It reminded me of the numerous moments in my schooling when I repeatedly apologized to my peers and teachers, "I'm sorry about my English." As I learned more about Daria's experiences, I began to see the entangled stories of our shared immigration experiences--my journey from immigrant student to immigrant teacher meshing with Daria's journey. In this paper, I rewrite those stories by carefully unraveling each layer to also tell some stories of immigrant children and their families through the lens of Daria's stories both within and beyond the classroom spaces.

Literature Review

Teaching is intimately intertwined with teachers' lived experiences and builds on their biographical backgrounds. (1) Learning about teachers' lived histories and how they influence their relationships with students can offer in-depth understandings of diverse characteristics of teaching lives. (2) This is also true for immigrant teachers. For immigrants who became teachers in a foreign land, their immigration experiences often become a cornerstone in their teaching practice as their teaching and learning lives intersect with the phenomenon of immigration. The experiences of straddling between multiple languages and cultures (3) and the emotions that come with those experiences orient their attitudes and approaches to teaching in unique ways. (4) Using the elements of biographical writing allows a platform to share such experiences and to delve deeply into how lived experiences can shape their identities as teachers and individuals. (5)

Anzaldua states that our most painful and contradicting experiences can transform into a source of strength for positive change. (6) One of many reasons why immigrants become teachers is this desire to turn their painful experiences into something positive, a strength to heal pain. It is common for many immigrants to have gone through schooling feeling as if their backgrounds and experiences are devalued due to their cultural and linguistic differences. (7) In Monzo and Rueda's study of an immigrant teacher from Mexico, the teacher mentioned that the reason she became a teacher is to support immigrant students who may be going through the same linguistic and cultural difficulty she once experienced as an immigrant student. (8) Such memories, some from as far back as childhood, may lead teachers to be aware of the specific needs of immigrant students and motivate them to help the next generation of immigrant students. (9) A Chinese immigrant teacher who teaches English language classes to immigrant students in Lam's study said that she sees herself in her students due to their shared immigrant and racial minority backgrounds. (10) A bilingual teacher in Jackson's study stated that she felt a special responsibility for those students who are bilingual learners because she knew what it was like to live in multiple languages and cultures. (11) These shared experiences can play an important role in the instruction of and building genuine relationships with immigrant students. (12) Having been marginalized and Othered in school systems in which native-born English speakers are dominant, immigrant teachers are sensitive to the language, academic, and emotional needs of immigrant students and may be able to create more inclusive learning environment for all students, especially those who are positioned in the peripheral spaces of classrooms due to their differences. (13)

The aforementioned literature reveals that the lived experiences of immigrant teachers play a pivotal role in shaping their teaching practices as well as their own teacher identities. Situated within this genre of about inquiring educators' lives, this paper presents the stories of a Latina immigrant teacher who teaches and cares for young immigrant children and families in a preschool setting in a large urban area in the northeast United States. Her stories highlight that immigration as a lived experience matters as a connector and touchstone in her sense of herself as a teacher and the work she does. This study is particularly unique as the author, myself, is also an immigrant and a teacher. As I tell Daria's stories, my reflection of her stories echoes in my own lived experiences as it has throughout the duration of conducting this study. Through our interwoven histories and journeys as immigrant students and teachers entangled with the stories of Daria's young immigrant students and families, I hope to shed light on what it means to teach and learn with immigrants in both early childhood and higher education in the midst of our highly contested landscape of current schooling and culture.

Theoretical Framework

Carl Jung writes that, "An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." I stand by this statement that the core of teaching is in the relationship between a teacher and the child. Drawing on authentically caring pedagogy, (14) and the ethics of care, more specifically, caring relation, (15) I examine the stories of one Latina immigrant teacher, Daria, and her teaching lives, intimately intertwined with her own immigrant students and their families.

In her book on the topic of schooling and caring for Mexican youth, Valenzuela makes an important distinction between aesthetic care and authentic care. Aesthetic care is what typical teachers often expect from students, a form of "caring about schooling... or practices that purportedly lead to achievement." (16) Aesthetic care is a relationship focused solely on instructional relationships for academic achievement between the teacher and students. On the other hand, authentic caring is what immigrant students often need, "a form of caring that emphasizes relations and reciprocity between teachers and students" (17) beyond academic instruction. Valenzuela further posits that authentic caring creates a welcoming environment in schools especially for immigrant students and within such caring students can maximize aesthetic caring. In this study, I utilize authentic caring rather than aesthetic caring as a conceptual lens to closely examine the relationships between an immigrant teacher and immigrant children and their families.

With the increasing academic expectations for young children in early childhood education, (18) it is important to understand how authentic caring emerges in the school setting. Especially in the context of early childhood education, care is the utmost critical factor when young children are to develop a sense of belonging and of how they fit in the world around them. (19) For young children, preschool is generally their first impression of school. For young immigrant children, preschool can create one of their first impressions of America. It can be a place where they feel truly welcomed as a member of the new land or the first place where they feel alienated and rejected. Authentic caring relationships and pedagogy, one tenet of culturally responsive teaching, (20) is "relational and compassionate" (21) and examines the larger contexts that influence everyday in-and-out-of-school life. Valenzuela further states that such caring relationships for immigrant students are only possible when there is a profound "understanding of the socioeconomic, linguistic, sociocultural, and structural barriers" (22) they experience.

I argue that immigrant teachers, who often have the first-hand experience of overcoming such barriers, are uniquely positioned to create authentically caring relationships with their immigrant students. Noddings believes genuine education is possible when students are given opportunities to learn about how to care for themselves and for others. (23) This is not to say that academic development should be looked down upon; rather, it is a call to pay more attention to the reciprocal relations between teachers and students, (24) which leads to caring for themselves and others, eventually promoting academic achievement and positive school engagement. As Gay confirms, "the heart of the educational process is the interactions that occur between teachers and students," (25) and the kind of authentic caring pedagogy promotes "student-teacher relationships characterized by respect, admiration, and love," (26) which in turn inspires immigrant students to better themselves.

"It's a matter of love. They are like my children to me," (27) says a teacher of Mexican immigrant students cited in Valenzuela's work. With this quote, the teacher expresses one way, the most foundational way, to meet the needs of immigrant students is through his humane, compassionate, and culturally sensitive pedagogy. This pedagogy in unique in its expression of sincerity and love that the teachers have toward these children. However, there is a dearth of studies about the kinds of authentic relations between immigrant students and teachers. (28) To this end, I draw on the experiences of immigrants in and out of school and authentic pedagogical relationships between immigrant teachers and students. Focusing on the narrative history of the lives of educators and telling the unheard stories of immigrants will require me to dig deeply into educators' experiences, apprehending schooling, cultures, and their living realities.


This study includes one participating teacher, Daria, who has taught immigrant children in her preschool classroom for more than 10 years. At the time of data collection, which lasted one academic semester, she was enrolled in a teacher education master's degree program at an elite university. I met Daria when I was her instructor in the student teaching seminar at the university. Daria emigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic during high school, allowing her a unique perspective from which to discuss her own experiences of teaching and learning and the changes in her experiences from being an immigrant student in high school and graduate school to being an immigrant teacher.

Situated in a single case study, (29) data was collected through a series of qualitative data collection methods including a series of five observations, two in-depth semi-structured interviews, informal conversations, and researcher journals. The observations took place as part of her student teaching observations at a public school kindergarten classroom and informal conversations were conducted shortly after the observations. Although her student teaching placement was not her own preschool classroom, the context and setting were similar to her own preschool classroom. Both her student teaching placement and her preschool classroom were bilingual, Spanish and English classes and the majority of the student body was comprised of children of immigrants from the same neighborhood. In addition, Daria worked in her own preschool classroom on the days when she did not teach in the kindergarten classroom as part of her student teaching practicum. The interviews were conducted in her preschool classroom and all procedures followed ethical research standards.

My analysis began simultaneously with my first observation in Daria's kindergarten student teaching classroom. I recorded my reflections on my observations of Daria in the classroom with her students as well as on our informal conversations afterwards. I also recorded my thoughts in my research journal after our seminar, reflecting on my interaction with Daria. My research journal was important during this process of data collection and analysis because it became a catalyst to connect with Daria's stories and to examine her experiences in a broader context for my interpretations. It also helped me to position myself as an inquirer of her stories as I saw our shared social context as teachers and immigrants between her lived experiences and my own.

After the first interview was conducted, I transcribed its recording verbatim before the next interview. Doing so allowed me to build my next interview questions based on the previous interview. Once I completed all interview transcription, I read the transcript multiple times to identify tensions and conflicts (30) and to note emerging themes that stood out to me the most. (31) In the process, I used open coding to expand and then to collapse categories based on what the data revealed as most salient. (32) The main categories that emerged were: connecting with child, connecting with families, and connecting with self. The word, "connection" was repeated throughout the two interviews as well as in our informal conversations. It was clear that connecting with her students, their families, and her own history and lived experiences was the core of her teaching and learning. It was this "connection" that shed light on the complexity in her teaching lives entangled with her own immigration history and with her students' and families' lives as newcomers.

Connecting with Children: "I Gave him Time, I Gave him Space, anal Gave him Love."

Daria's preschool classroom is composed of many young children of immigrants with varied strengths and needs from countries such as Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Daria said multiple times during the first interview, "I see everything in the classroom." To me, though, she seems to be a teacher who can see beyond classroom events by listening to children's everyday conversations and paying attention to the stories they bring to and the behavior they exhibit in the classroom. When she sees children, she thinks about events at home, issues their parents are negotiating, and their living conditions because she knows that these daily realties also shape how each child develops. The following two stories illustrate how Daria connected with, paid attention to, looked at, and responded to some of the young immigrant students in her preschool classroom.

A Child who did not Want to Sit at a Table

Daria began with a story of a child who did not want to sit at a table: "One day my coworker was having a hard time with one child who did not want to sit at the table to eat breakfast or lunch or snack. She [my coworker] was having a hard time. I said, 'Mary just leave him alone.' [She said,] 'He needs to sit like everybody else.' [I said,] 'No, you don't know his need[s]. Leave him alone.'"

Daria felt that the child, who is a child of Mexican immigrant parents, needed some space to figure out this new environment. In the meantime, she wanted to observe him a little more closely. However, her co-worker thought otherwise and it was unsettling for her that he did not want to eat with the other children at the table.

Daria and her co-worker ended up having a home visit to this child's home and it turned out the child and his family did not, in fact, eat at a table. She said they did not even have chairs to offer the teachers to sit on in the house. Daria said, "If you don't know their background, if you don't know where they are coming from, just give them space. Leave them alone for a little bit until they figure it out." I thought about my first few days and weeks in my high school cafeteria and how I was hesitant to eat there. The food was different, the language was different, and the people were different. I needed time to observe and process what I was seeing. Perhaps the child was similarly trying to make sense of his new world while eating alone on the classroom floor.

Daria watched him with patience and sat with his emotions. And she responded to him by watching him eat, paying attention to his body language, and connecting with him emotionally. She stated, "I gave him time, I gave him space, and I gave him love." Eventually, the child responded to her by coming to the table to eat with the others, becoming a part of the classroom community. It is clear that the crux of her teaching is her desire to care and connect with each child in her classroom. Perhaps that is because she cares enough to acknowledge that her students also live lives as complex as her own, shaped by varied contexts, and they might need some time and space to figure out their new environment as their teachers wait for them with patience, care, and love.

A Child who Lived in One Room

Daria shared another story about a child in her classroom who was also a recent immigrant. Daria said she tries her best to involve herself in the classroom with the children by listening carefully to their everyday conversations. It is a way to learn about them and their lives. She told one anecdote of a typical day in her classroom while listening to children's conversations:
There was a child saying, "My mommy said that she is going to throw my
toys in the garbage if I don't pick them up." Another child said, "You
know what I did? I put them in the kitchen." Another one said, "I put
it in my bedroom." Then Maria went... oh my God... Maria was sitting
next to me and they asked, "What about you, Maria, do your mommy get
angry at you? Where do you put your toys?" Maria is from Mexico, and
then she said, "Don't you understand that I don't have an apartment? I
just have a room!" I just looked at my coworker at the other table.
She [Maria] was really, really teary. "Don't you understand that I
don't have an apartment?"

It was clear that Daria cares enough to listen and pay attention to her students in their everyday conversations and is sensitive to their stories. Children's conversations informed her teaching practices and enabled her to see beyond the classroom walls into the lives of her students as their conversations mirror the reality of their living and learning. Daria believes that placing "listening at the center of teaching," (33) which might seem simple, is one of the most profound ways to love them and to make meaningful relationships with them. By listening to their conversations, Daria learns the details of their realities and by knowing where the children are both physically and emotionally, she can be responsive and sensitive to their needs by respecting and incorporating their realities into her teaching.

Connecting with Families: "I Understand Where They are Coming From."

Daria's relentless effort to connect with her students also extends to their families. She said that she tries to understand them as much as possible without pointing fingers at them or judging them even if their child is acting out in school. More importantly, she said she lets her students' parents know that not only does she genuinely care for their children but also that she is "a person, and a human who has feelings" aside from being their child's teacher. It is this personal connection and caring relation, (34) that Daria strives to build with her students' families as she invites them into her life in her classroom. These personal connections she builds with the families become the bridge between home and school that ultimately benefits the young children in her classroom.

Parents with no "Paper"

Daria explained that some immigrant parents in her classroom are undocumented and she shared stories of their struggles when raising their children in a foreign land. She said:
Every year, there are things, new issues. When parents, when they
don't have their immigration paper... it's a bit hard for them to
take their children to places. I let them know up to a certain point,
because I don't want things to happen but I told them it's not like
people over here like police, they are gonna stop you and say, 'Let me
see your paper,' and that never happened to me. They don't know if I
have paper or not, that never happened to me. So, I let them know, I
say, 'It's fine. You can do your normal life, as long as you don't get
in trouble.' But, it's hard to tell you specific cases right now.

For obvious reasons, Daria was hesitant to share the stories of her students' families. The current political climate surrounding immigration causes many immigrant families to live in fear. They are in need of advocates for themselves as well as for their children. Because Daria has built trust with her students' families in their relationships, they often rely on her to be their spokesperson. She said that one of the parents asked Daria to accompany her to a meeting where she had to meet with a social worker. Daria explained that the families trust her because they know that her caring and her involvement with her students and families "come from her heart."

Preschools are often the first public institution where many new immigrant families come to seek support for their children's education. When partnerships are formed between teachers and families, preschools can become a special haven for families, providing more than educational support, (35) as shown in Daria's classroom. In fact, her Head Start program recently invited an immigration lawyer to lead a workshop for the families, many of whom are undocumented, on their rights and available support. As I listened to her stories about creating caring relations with her students' parents, I began to understand that she is fully aware of the fact that some of these parents, especially those who are in vulnerable positions, require advocates who would be on their side despite their circumstances. By involving herself in their lives and by inviting them to come into her life, Daria lets them know that she is advocating for them and their children because she understands what they are going through and empathizes with them as a parent who was once in similar circumstances.

"Angry" Parents

Another issue that came up in our dialogue was about immigrant parents spanking their children. Daria mentioned that spanking often happens in her students' homes, and that, in response, she tries to help the parents while advocating for their children:
I try to let them understand that they are not going to get anything
good by beating their children... Also, they are angry, a lot of them
are angry not with their children [but] because [of] their situation,
economical, the places where they live, most of them they don't have
an apartment of their own. They have to share their apartment with
other families. I understand the situation that their life situations
make them upset. Sometimes, they take out all the anger with their
little ones, which is not fair. I try to understand that it's not
easy... they break my heart, their condition...

Daria's layered comment about the families with whom she works seems to show that she thinks not only about the children but also about the realities their families face negotiating culture and life. Daria also has to negotiate between her responsibilities as a mandated reporter of child abuse and her partnerships with the parents. She approaches angry parents without judgment but with understanding and respect for their resilience and lived experiences. Instead of blaming them for being angry at their situations and reporting them to the school administrator because of spanking, Daria takes up the role of educating the parents and becomes a bridge between the parents and their children, and the administration. She said, "We help them know how to communicate with their children ... I'm not saying that we are fixing 100 percent, but... before they go to kindergarten [public school] we try to help them as much as possible. Could you imagine they are from the house with those issues, they go straight to kindergarten? That would be something hard for them."

Daria wants the parents to know the cultural differences between their home culture and American laws against child abuse so they understand that spanking their children can become a bigger issue in public settings. Instead of blaming the parents for not knowing U.S. laws or not considering how the ways of their home country might differ from the ways here, Daria tries to understand their situations first. She helps them to navigate different ways to communicate with their children and deal with their frustration with the harsh reality of living as immigrants. Gonzales (36) documents that environmental aspects such as cramped apartments, long work hours, stress from living in unsafe neighborhoods, and poverty can disadvantage immigrant families and their children emotionally and educationally. It appears that Daria approaches the parents the same way she does her students, by providing them time, space, and love through her genuine care and deep understanding. According to her, "it's something they could see that it comes from my heart."

Connecting with Self: "Because I Went through the Same"

Our dialogues about her childhood, schooling both in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S., and her teaching experiences with immigrant children and their families seemed to inspire reflexivity for Daria about her journey from immigrant student to immigrant teacher. After she shared her schooling experiences in the U.S. as an immigrant student, I asked her about how she saw her immigration experiences influencing her own teaching now. She responded, "Not that much." After a short pause, she continued, "But, in a way.... Hmm... I never thought about it." Then, she began to connect with her past, from being a newcomer to the U.S. many years ago when she was a new immigrant student to now being a host as a teacher in her classroom welcoming new immigrant children and their families.

Nexus of Memories

During my field observations in her student teaching practicum as part of the seminar course, I was struck by how Daria paid special attention towards Kerly, a shy, quiet child whose family recently immigrated from Mexico. I wondered about what went through Daria's mind during those moments when she let Kerly know that she cared for her by asking if she wanted to share her work with her classmates. When Kerly said no, Daria simply said, "Okay," and before she closed her lesson she kindly asked Kerly again if she wanted to share her work. When she refused to share it again Daria said, "Okay," and then she ended her lesson as if nothing happened. When I asked Daria about those moments during her lesson she told me about her observations of Kerly. Although Kerly is quiet, Daria knows that she is a highly capable learner. Daria said that, one day, she saw Kerly quietly reviewing what she learned on a white board by herself, drawing the steps her teacher taught in a large group lesson. Daria added, "Just because she is quiet, it doesn't mean that she doesn't have the capacity of doing all those things." As I pushed to try to understand how she was able to see Kerly's potential, Daria responded very passionately and with a bit of intensity:
Because I went through the same, just because I don't speak in
Professor X's class or Y's class [in her graduate school courses], it
doesn't mean that I don't know what they are talking about. It means
that I feel shy, maybe because of my English... Plus, I know that the
girl [Kerly] has a lot of potential inside of her. So, after you
interact with the child you know what a child is capable of doing or
not... You need to have a special connection with [the child]... That's
me. If I don't have a connection with a child I feel like I am losing
my time in there, and they are losing their time.

I repeated Daria's statement so full of emotions, "Because I went through the same..." and realized how our shared experiences echoed through our conversation. I told her how I wished I had a teacher who saw my potential and carefully included me in the classroom community when I was a shy and quiet immigrant student. Her connection with and trust in her students is deeply personal--as she says, it comes "from her heart." As an immigrant graduate student, Daria seemed to be searching for the same kinds of authentic connections with her teacher education program professors. Although she was perceived to be voiceless during class discussions, she wanted to communicate that she is a capable learner if only they cared to listen to her.

Reliving the Past

Daria remembered the days when she first went to high school as an immigrant student. She said, "It was hard because I didn't make any connection with anybody in there [high school]. With anyone! I could not tell you a name. It was hard." I asked her if she had any teachers who supported her during the first few years in high school and who actually wanted to get to know her. She answered, "No, never. I mean I'd be happy [if there were any], but no. None." As she was processing her old memory she stated:
I like the connection between the children, between them, and I think
it's important. The first weeks in here, month, I worked in them to
socialize so they could have a good relationship [with each other]...
since I didn't have that [in high school when I first came here]...
For example, one child [who just came from Samoa], she's doing well
here. What we did in the beginning, we try to talk a lot about her and
tell the children, she's new, we need to show her where we have things
in here, and letting them help her so they could feel part of that
[process of including her].

The absence of care and attention from her teachers and peers when she was a new immigrant student was reflected in her narratives about the ways in which she welcomes her students and encourages them to build relationships among themselves in her classroom. Daria seems to know what it means to truly belong to a community as well as what it takes to create such an environment for all students. It is an effort for all members of the classroom community to become responsible human beings by caring for each other. (37)

Continuing with her story, in her experiences at her graduate school Daria was once again a newcomer who spoke with an accent, who struggled with her English writing, and who was quiet in class discussions. She described her experiences this way, "The grades I got on my papers were C, C+. At one point, there were some professors who didn't want me [at school] and that shut me down a little bit more. I was afraid even to open my mouth. That's how I felt and I was growing on that aspect... At some point, I thought to quit and leave."

In the face of such a negative beginning, Daria persevered through the two years of her graduate program because of the support she received from a professor with whom she said she had a great connection. She said:
It was hard for me... After I had the first class with Dr. Roland, [it]
was like everything was smoother. I don't know if this is because I
made that connection with her, I mean... there's something in her, she
made me feel relaxed, she made me feel like, yes, you could do it, and
I think that she was a great support for me in that way... After that
I felt a little bit more confident and I did my best. It's very
important I'm going back to feel that and to believe that it's very
important for teachers to support students. No matter what they know
about the students, support them and try to help them...

While listening to Daria's stories in the graduate program, I also relived my years in college when I was studying to become a teacher. Though there were obstacles and difficulty with the new language and culture, my professors believed in me and encouraged me to follow my calling in education. Without the help of those professors who saw my potential and went above and beyond to help me, I would not be pursuing my doctorate in education. I promised myself once more that 1 would pay forward the debt I received throughout my journey. Perhaps that is what Daria is doing--paying forward the support and help she received from Dr. Roland as she works with young immigrant children and their families.

There was another person Daria named as a great support for her during the process of obtaining her degree. She stated, "The director [her Head Start preschool director] in here, she spoke to me, she said, 'If it would be easy, everybody could do it. You could do it. I trust you, I know you could do it. What is it that you need?'... If I needed a day to complete a paper or things like that, it was fine with her. She was always like, supporting me, in any single thing. She said, 'No, you could do it. You have the capacity to do it.'"

The journey to go through schooling again as an immigrant student in her graduate school was difficult for Daria. She mentioned that she did not feel she belonged to her graduate school and perhaps it was almost like reliving the years in high school in which she felt unwelcomed and invisible. Despite the hardships, and unlike her high school years, Daria was able to find and use her own strengths with the support of others who believed in and deeply cared for her. When Daria described the support she received from her school director, she emphasized, "She [the director] connected with me first. Yes, she did. She connected with me." Her statement about making connections with her director reflects the way she connects with her students and their families. Daria connects with them first to pay forward what she received. She connects with them because she sees that is what they need the most above everything else, the special connection with someone who truly welcomes and cares for them.

Connecting the Worlds through Caring Relations

Teaching immigrant students may be one of the most challenging tasks for educators. Many studies have documented the difficulties educators face in connecting with the ever-increasing population of immigrant students and their families. (38) Daria's narratives about her teaching lives disrupt the common notion that teaching immigrant children is difficult by illuminating her authentically caring pedagogy and her genuine relationships with her students and families. Her deep understanding of the complex realities of their daily lives within and beyond the classroom walls reflected in her past and current experiences was key to her teaching philosophy and pedagogical decisions.

Noddings states that caring in teaching serves not only the students but also the teacher because caring is deeply relational. (39) This idea was reflected in Daria's narratives. As she described her past and current struggles as an immigrant student in a graduate program, her caring practice underscores the two-way relationship between herself and her students. By caring for her immigrant students who may be feeling marginalized, she was able to connect with them in ways that brought healing to herself. Attending graduate school felt almost like reliving immigration all over again. However, the vulnerability in her reality mirrored the reality of her students and families and reminded her once again what it is like to live as an immigrant. As her professor saw potential in Daria, Daria sees the potential in her students. As her director initiated a genuinely caring relationship with her, she initiates creating such caring relationships with her students and their families. Noddings reminds us that, "The caring is completed when the cared for receives the caring." (40) Seeing her students develop and grow under her care offers Daria the strength to keep teaching and caring despite the contested reality of the current political climate for immigrants. This was her way of surviving in this land within these caring relationships.

Her apology and doubt in her ability to tell her stories due to her English speaking skills at the initial stage of the research study echoed in my mind throughout this process of rewriting her histories. By privileging Daria's stories in this paper, I learned that providing a platform for the narratives of immigrant teachers may bring the stories in the margin to the center. Doing so may also offer valuable insight to the field of early childhood education and teacher education not only for teaching immigrant children but for all children. Elbas-Luwisch states that:
Studies of narratives of immigrant teachers, for example, hold
significant potential for understanding schooling and teaching for all
students and teachers through a process that sets in motion the
interaction of the strange with the familiar. Seeing how immigrant
teachers tell their stories of becoming teachers in a new environment
teaches us about schooling in the "host" culture and allows new
questions to be asked about that culture and its arrangements for
learning and teaching. (41)

Through Daria's lived experiences, I was afforded a window into the intimate and nuanced realities of her students and families and what it means to genuinely care for and connect with them. The heart of teaching immigrant children rests on such authentic relationships initiated by teachers who care deeply and who complete the cycle of caring by caring for their students. (42)


(1) A. Lin Goodwin, "Globalization and the Preparation of Quality Teachers: Rethinking Knowledge Domains for Teaching," Teaching Education 21, no. 1 (2010): 23.

(2) Janet Alsup, Teacher Identity Discourses: Negotiating Personal and Professional Spaces (Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 2006); Nina Bascia, "Making Sense of the Lives and Work of Racial Minority Immigrant Teachers," in Making a Difference about Difference: The Lives and Careers of Racial Minority Immigrant Teachers, eds. Dennis Thiessen, Nina Bascia, and Ivor Goodson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 1-14; Lilia D. Monzo and Robert R. Rueda, "Shaping Education through Diverse Funds of Knowledge: A Look at one Latina Paraeducator's Lived Experiences, Beliefs, and Teaching Practice," Anthropology & Education Quarterly 34, no. 1 (2003): 72-95; Cindy S. M. Lam, "The Green Teacher," in Making a Difference about Difference, 15-49; Dennis Thiessen, "The Changing Place of Racial Minority Immigrant Teachers," in Making a Difference about Difference, 51-78.

(3) Christine, L. Cho, "'Qualifying' as Teacher: Immigrant Teacher Candidates' Counterstories," Canadian journal of Educational Administration and Policy 100, (2010): 12; Jackson, "Shaping a Borderland Professional Identity," 142; Farahnaz Faez, "Diverse Teachers for Diverse Students: Internationally Educated and Canadian-born Teachers' Preparedness to Teach English Language Learners," Canadian journal of Education 35, no. 3 (2012): 73; Xue Lan Rong and Judith Preissle, "The Continuing Decline in Asian American Teachers," American Educational Research journal 34, no. 2 (1997): 282; Tara Yosso, "Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth," Race, Ethnicity and Education 8, no. 1 (2005): 79.

(4) Freema Elbaz-Luwisch, "Studying Teachers' Lives and Experience: Narrative Inquiry into K-12 Teaching," in Handbook of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping a Methodology, ed. D. Jean Clandanin (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, 2007): 357-382; Lam, "The Green Teacher," 15-49; Monzo and Rueda, "Shaping Education through Diverse Funds," 72-95; Thiessen, "The Changing Place," 51-78.

(5) Nina Bascia, "Making sense of the lives and work of racial minority immigrant teachers," in Making a Difference about Difference, 1.

(6) Gloria E. Anzaldua, Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987), 79.

(7) Lam, "The Green Teacher," 15-49; Monzo and Rueda, "Shaping Education through Diverse Funds," 72-95; Zhixin Su, "Why Teach: Profiles and Entry Perspectives of Minority Students as Becoming Teachers," Journal of Research and Development in Education 29, no. 3 (1996): 117-133.

(8) Monzo and Rueda, "Shaping Education through Diverse Funds," 84.

(9) Linda G. Jackson, "Shaping a Borderland Professional Identity: Funds of Knowledge of a Bilingual Education Teacher," Teacher Education and Practice 19, no. 2 (2006): 131-148; Lam, "The Green Teacher," 15-49; Su, "Why Teach," 117-133.

(10) Lam, "The Green Teacher," 48.

(11) Jackson, "Shaping a Borderland Professional Identity," 138.

(12) Faez, "Diverse Teachers," 64-84; Flynn Ross, "Helping Immigrants become Teachers," Educational Leadership 58, no. 8 (2001): 68-71.

(13) Binaya Subedi, "Fostering Critical Dialogue across Cultural Differences: A Study of Immigrant Teachers' Interventions in Diverse Schools," Theory and Research in Social Education 36, no. 4 (2008): 413-440.

(14) Angela Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999), 155.

(15) Nell Noddings, The Challenges to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education, Second Edition (New York: Teachers College Press,

2005), 15.

(16) Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling, 61.

(17) Ibid.

(18) Celia Genishi and Anne H. Dyson, Children, Language and Literacy: Diverse Learners in Diverse Times (New York: Teachers College Press and Washington: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009). 42.

(19) Erminda H. Garcia and Eugene E. Garcia, Understanding the Language Development and Early Education of Hispanic Children (New York: Teachers College Press, 2012), 65.

(20) Geneva Gay, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010), 47.

(21) Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling, 73.

(22) Ibid, 109.

(23) Noddings, Caring, 213.

(24) Ibid, 196.

(25) Gay, Culturally Responsive Teaching, 48.

(26) Julio Cammarota and Augustine Romero, "A Critically Compassionate Pedagogy for Latino Youth," Latino Studies 4, no. 3 (2006): 305.

(27) Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling, 113.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Robert Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Fifth Edition (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014)", 31.

(30) D. Jean Clandinin, Engaging in Narrative Inquiry (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013), 65.

(31) Sharan B. Merriam and Elizabeth J. Tisdell, Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, Fourth Edition (Somerset, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2016), 208.

(32) Joseph A. Maxwell, Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, 2013), 97.

(33) Katherine Schultz, Listening: A Framework for Teaching across Differences (New York: Teachers College Press, 2003), 7.

(34) Noddings, Caring, 189.

(35) Colleen K. Vesely, Marriam Ewaida, and Katina B. Kearney, "Capitalizing on Early Childhood Education: Low-income Immigrant Mothers' Use of Early Childhood Education to Build Human, Social, and Navigational Capital," Early Education and Development 24, no. 5 (2013): 760.

(36) Roberto G. Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015), 64.

(37) Noddings, Caring, 194.

(38) Tang T. Heng, "The Nature of Interactions between Chinese Immigrant Families and Preschool Staff: How Culture, Class, and Methodology Matter," Journal of Early Childhood Research 12, no. 2 (2014): 111-127; Judy Smith-Davis, "The New Immigrant Students Need More than ESL," The Education Digest 69, no. 8 (2004): 21-26.

(39) Noddings, Caring, 190.

(40) Ibid, 191.

(41) Elbaz-Luwisch, "Studying Teachers' Lives," 372.

(42) Noddings, Caring, 191.

SeungEun McDevitt

St. John's University
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Date:Mar 22, 2018
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