During the summer of 2019, Bernd Reiter, Director of the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC) at the University of South Florida (USF) and a group of its affiliated faculty, offered a professional development seminar to the School District of Hillsborough County (SDHC) high school teachers in the field of Latin American Studies. The seminar was coordinated by Barbara Cruz, a professor of education at USF, and Dennis Holt, Secondary Social Studies and Driver Education Supervisor with Hillsborough County Public Schools. With an emphasis on the African Diaspora, teachers spent time learning new content, pedagogical strategies, and creating lesson plans for use in the district.
Latin American History is currently offered as an elective for SDHC students. Once a popular course, it is currently suffering from low enrollment due to a perceived lack of interest among students and the absence of a cadre of teachers prepared to teach the course. The ISLAC summer seminar is designed to address these concerns and increase interest and participation in the course by both teachers and students.
During the seminar, ISLAC faculty provide SDHC secondary teachers with content and instructional material, so they can effectively teach Latin American History and have more teaching resources at their disposal in order to attract more students to this elective course.
Additionally, participating teachers will incorporate seminar content into mandated courses such as World History and U.S. History. In particular, this seminar focuses on the history of colonialism and slavery and their long-term consequences on contemporary Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as on current Latinx populations in the US. Because of this focus, emphasis is given to such topics as inequality, racism, poverty, and exclusion. With this, the seminar aims at raising the awareness about Afro-Latinx populations. It also seeks to refine the understanding of diversity in Latin America and the Caribbean and among the Latinx populations in the US and to fight the invisibility of Afro-Latins.