Founding and Early History

ANDESTourTeaching for Change began in the 1980s as the Network of Educators’ Committees on Central America (NECCA), a coalition of teacher committees formed in 11 major U.S. and Canadian cities.

The committees were comprised of teachers from K-12 in school districts with large numbers of Central American refugees. Learning from students in their classrooms about the painful impact of U.S. foreign policy, teachers were moved to speak out. The committees coordinated tours to and from Central America, raised funds for Central American schools and teacher’ unions, established sister-schools and sister-unions, offered workshops, and developed curricula.

In 1989, the Washington, D.C. committee launched the Books Project to provide an opportunity for the growing Central American student population to share their immigration stories and develop literacy skills. The approach was successful not only in promoting literacy and pride of authorship for all students, it also allowed students the opportunity to learn about each other’s lives and build solidarity.

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The D.C. committee secured federal funding, in partnership with George Washington University, to share the approach with professional development and coaching in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and Prince George’s County Public Schools. Modeled on the National Writing Project (NWP), the initiative was called the Books Project. In December of 1989, the D.C. committee formally incorporated as a 501(c)3 as required to receive funding.

cch_rcAs peace agreements were signed in Central America, the focus of Teaching for Change expanded. Teaching for Change assisted Rethinking Schools with the publication of the best-selling (more than 250,000 copies) Rethinking Columbus, and sponsored a Rethinking Columbus/Rethinking Our Classrooms workshop series all over the U.S. from 1991–93 with funding from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Foundation. More than 4,200 teachers participated from 40 school districts.

In every workshop, teachers said that the Columbus story made them realize how much else they must be teaching from a Eurocentric bias. “Where,” they asked, “are the materials I need to ‘rethink’ the rest of my curriculum?”

In response, Teaching for Change (NECCA at the time) launched a small mail-order catalog of progressive teaching resources in 1994. At its height, the catalog was distributed to 50,000 teachers, parents, and other educators twice per year and according to Rethinking Schools was by “far and away the best and most comprehensive resource focusing exclusively on critical, multicultural teaching materials.” Seattle high school teacher Sarah McFarlane said, “You are my #1 go-to source, in my own teaching, and to share with folks in the profession–especially new teachers. Thanks for helping to promote peace, justice and equality in the educational system.” Thousands of the catalogs were distributed by a network of about 400 educators each semester to their teacher education students or fellow school staff. When the catalog was replaced by the bookstore and webstore in 2009, dozens of educators wrote notes like this one from teacher educator Nancy Schniedewind:

What an amazing resource the catalog has been to so many educators for so many years! It was a consciousness-raising tool to alert students to all the wonderful progressive resources out there for them, as well as a source for those resources. Thank you for the amazing effort.

The Books Project grew into a local site for the National Writing Project (called the DC Area Writing Project), co-sponsored by Teaching for Change, Howard University, and DCPS. Teaching for Change also established a family component of the Books Project, called Tellin’ Stories, and moved its offices to the Howard University campus.

In the early 1990s, Teaching for Change partnered with EPICA to develop a series of teaching guides on the Caribbean for schools including an Overview of Regional HistoryMoving North (on immigration/migration to mainland U.S.), JamaicaPuerto Rico, and Haiti. The guide on Haiti was published in 1993 on newsprint with funding for widespread distribution to schools and churches across the country as part of a campaign (sadly unsuccessful) to pressure President Clinton to keep his promise to Haiti with respect to President Aristide. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Teaching for Change quickly produced an online version of the guide, Teaching About Haiti, for free access by teachers. It remains one of the most visited pages on the Teaching for Change website. The book on the Dominican Republic (also in Spanish) was produced by the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies and includes a moving forward by award winning novelist Julia Alvarez.

25-pubs-beyondPublished by Teaching for Change in 1998 with a new edition in 2007, Beyond Heroes and Holidays was the first guide to provide the theory and the practice on a meaningful and critical approach to multicultural education in K-12 classrooms. The book gained national recognition thanks to co-editor Enid Lee using it in professional development with school districts across the United States and widespread teacher education university course adoptions

Teaching for Change also published Inside the Volcano: A Curriculum on Nicaragua in 1990.

In the spring of 1993, Teaching for Change coordinated a national project to raise awareness in schools about Afro-Latino heritage. The focus was a national tour to schools and study guide by Ecuadorian scholar and activist Juan Garcia Salazar.

Teaching for Change collaborated with DCPS to offer “Teaching for Equity” summer institutes.

Teaching for Equity Summer Institute. One assignment was for teachers to create a visual representation of relations between the U.S. and countries of origin of immigrant students. Here a group diagrams U.S. history with Nicaragua. View more photos.

In April of 2002, the Board voted to change NECA’s name to Teaching for Change. By this time, the base of the work was in D.C., with many people from the other committees playing an active role in a sister organization, the National Coalition of Education Activists (NCEA).

Teaching for Change had an early childhood equity initiative from 2005-2010 that hosted teacher training, produced two DVDs in 2006 (Teaching About the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Equity in Early Childhood Literacy), created an extensive online collection of articles on anti-bias education (bilingual), and developed a web-based collection of related resources for the most widely used anti-bias education book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. The online resources continue to be available and updated.

Read stories about Teaching for Change’s history from 2000 to the present.