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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Focusing on the Needs of Latino Students (Academic Environment)
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

Focusing on the needs of Latino students is creating the appropriate academic environment and allowing students not only to learn from what is taught , but it is nurturing a constructive learning scenario that will enable students to learn, achieve and succeed at the same time. Although there are different varieties, the essential values of the traditional classroom are the same. Today, technology and communications have provided a gateway and a bridge towards academic development. Smart Boards, computers and interactive classrooms are providing students with new waves of understanding and learning. Creating the appropriate academic environment is focusing on the student as a human being and accepting his/her culture as important as the one taught through language and literature.
The teaching of English in the United States is intrinsically tied to the teaching of the American culture. The teaching of culture demands behavioral changes and a consciousness and tolerance of the cultural influences affecting one’s own. Inconspicuously, an English as a second language teacher is fostering and affecting the concept development of culture in the second language learner. Therefore, a suitable academic environment is a must in the transition of the first language to fully grasp and cross the bridge to the learning of a second language. This is not the case in most educational settings across America.
The Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968 was the first signature legislation that acknowledged the needs of Limited English Speaking Ability (LESA) students. It brought awareness and identity to those Latinos who made America their home. Schools celebrated holidays like Cinco de Mayo, and other nationalities represented within the school community were recognized. Internationally recognized Hispanic American poets were brought to the classroom to speak and read to students. Reading was an interactive experience connected to the experiences of the recently arrived teen. Today, Bilingual Programs have been shut down, and English Only methodologies are once more being pursued by those who are interested in closing the doors to Latinos and other immigrants who have migrated to the United States of America.
The study of literature is the only situation to which students have to discover issues that are relevant to their interests. Culturally relevant literature combines the language, history and the cultural expression of the Latino/a experience that allows students to make sense of these issues and make language their own by making personal connections with their lives and background information. Focusing on the needs of Latino students is generating the appropriate academic environment and allowing students to improve educational outcomes, and to provide them with a mirror of themselves, their past, present and future. After the connection is made, students will automatically shift gears and become lifelong readers. The reading of the classics will become much more meaningful and significant once they walk across the bridge that links them to themselves.