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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Latina teachers in Los Angeles: Navigating race/ethnic and class boundaries in multiracial schools
by Flores, Glenda Marisol, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2011, 251; 3487900
Abstract (Summary)

This is the first major study of the professional lives and workplace experiences of Latina teachers who work in urban, multiracial schools. While there is a plethora of research on Latina immigrant women working in factories, the informal economy and low skill-jobs in the U.S., the work experiences of college-educated Latina professionals, with a few exceptions, have been ignored. Today, Latina women are the fastest growing (non-white) racial/ethnic group entering the teaching profession. This dissertation focuses on the experiences and perceptions of Latina teachers, most of whom are the daughters of Mexican immigrant working-class parents. The study examines Latina teachers' pathways into the profession, their interracial relations and interactions with co-teachers, staff and parents, and intra-class boundaries with parents and students in their workplaces.

This study relies on two multiracial elementary schools in two school districts in Los Angeles County; one in the San Gabriel Valley and one in Compton. The research design research relies on multiple qualitative methods. This included 50 in-depth interviews with teachers, over 400 hours of fieldwork conducted in the teachers' homes and school settings, and focus groups with 28 parents. The data reveals that while Latina teachers' reasons for entering the occupation are linked to gender and racial-ethnic identities, their career choices are fundamentally driven by working class constraints in their families of origin. Once in the profession, Latina teachers develop a missionary zeal motivation to help Latino students and families, but these processes work out differently in each of the research sites, as contrasting regional racial hierarchies emerge in the schools. The comparative study design contrasts Latina teachers at Garvey Unified, a predominantly working-class Latino and Chinese community in Rosemead, with Latina teachers in Compton, a formerly African American community that is now predominantly Latino. The research shows that Latina teachers distance themselves from Blacks in Compton, while Latina teachers in Rosemead see proximity to Asian American students, and community resources provided by Asian immigrants as an opportunity for themselves and Latino students. The research also reveals that while Latino cultural practices are unwelcome in many institutional work settings, this is not the case in these multiracial schools. At these urban multiracial schools, Latina teachers serve as cultural bridges between the educational institution, a white mainstream organization, and working class Latino communities and families. This allows Latina teachers to facilitate the incorporation of Latino immigrants and the mobility patterns of Latino children. Latina teachers in both of the school sites encourage one another to actively incorporate aspects of Latino ethnic culture in their teaching and classrooms to help Latino children and parents integrate into American society. High stakes testing, however, results in racial tension among teachers and parents at the school sites, hampering their efforts. These research findings have significance for the sociological fields of race, immigration, work and occupations and education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette
Commitee: Pulido, Laura, Saito, Leland
School: University of Southern California
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational sociology, Womens studies, Elementary education, Ethnic studies, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Immigrant incorporation, Latina, Latina teachers, Middle-class, Multiracial schools, Racial/ethnic relations, Upward mobility, Urban education
Publication Number: 3487900
ISBN: 978-1-267-07595-6
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