Chelsie Acosta (left) with Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews
By Chelsie Acosta
I am Chelsie Acosta and I teach English as a second language to a truly global population at a middle school in the Salt Lake City area in Utah – in one of my classes there are ten different languages spoken. I also teach Latinos in Action, a course to support students in our high-needs district to help them become civically engaged and aspire to better their lives through education, leadership and service.
Take Action ›
Keep up on all the latest education and political news with our weekly Education Votes email. Click here ›
Like many of my colleagues, after the hateful and scary rhetoric of the Presidential election, I struggled to find the words to talk with my students about the outcome and what it meant. It is still difficult to find the words to answer their questions about the actions of the Trump Administration as they deny refugees entry to the country, ban Muslims and build walls instead of schools.
On February 9th I decided to take this question to the town hall of my Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3). I asked him:
What do I say to my Latino students- those documented and undocumented, my refugee students- some of whom are from the seven countries targeted by the President’s Muslim ban, and my LGBTQ students – who feel threatened about the actions of President Trump and his Administration?
Representative Chaffetz didn’t really have an answer for me and he cut the town hall short. However, in the 90 minutes he took questions, the crowd of nearly 1,000 constituents in the auditorium and over 1,000 citizens outside who could not gain entry, gave voice to our concerns about the impact the Trump Administration is having on working families in Utah. We also asked Rep. Chaffetz as a leader in this Republican led Congress to hold this Administration accountable.
Representative Chaffetz will return to Washington, DC with a clear idea of where his constituents stand. Will your member of Congress?
If you are an educator who wants to get more active, I have 5 tips:
- Find out where we can be a voice. There are opportunities in your city or state to make your voice heard on issues critical to you!
- Show up. As educators it is our ethical and human responsibility to stand up for our students in spaces of resistance – whether it is a courthouse, Senator’s office or town hall meeting.
- Know what you are talking about. Educate yourself and make sure you use the great resources that your education association provides to you from the local, state and national level.
- Organize. Create a means to communicate and organize your collective voice. I have an email list that includes 31 out of 40 of my colleagues.
- Tell your story. Share your narrative with your students and colleagues. It is my responsibility to help people understand what I am doing to let them know that they are not alone.
My job for my students doesn’t end at 3:10pm when school is over – it is just getting started. I am an educator, activist and advocate for my students. I show up. You can too.