After she was told she would never walk again because of an illness she contracted in the fifth grade, Berenice Villa did not let this challenge get in her way. She walked again by the eighth grade.
“What motivates me [is] if someone tells me I can’t. It motivates me to do it. It might not be your way or society’s way but I am going to do it,” said California State University Associate Professor Louie Rodriguez, as he read Villa’s quote from her model of excellence profile that is displayed at Colton High School in California.
Rodriguez delivered the first annual Distinguished Lecture hosted by the College of Education and P-16 Integration April 18 in the PlainsCapital Bank Gran Salón. More than 40 people attended his presentation.
The lecture was on his latest book, “Intentional Excellence, Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o School and Communities,” in which he explains the steps it takes to bring excellence to a community.
Rodriguez is a Harvard graduate and co-director of the doctoral program in Educational Leadership at CSU.
The lecture presented the steps it takes to bring the idea of excellence to the community by creating a campaign of models of excellence to showcase local talent and inspire students in schools.
“How do we create a movement? How do we create excitement in the community to engage in this kind of work?” Rodriguez said. “We work together to define excellence in the Latino community, and other communities, and really use it to bring people together. … I call it the pedagogy of excellence.”
To start the recognition of excellence, a community must first define what the term means for them and recognize who among the local talent could be showcased in the campaign.
“The next thing is [to] launch a campaign,” Rodriguez said. “You could create posters, banners, bookmarkers, use social media to publicize these people. … It’s all about sharing it locally and celebrating it locally.”
Colton High School recognized its models of excellence by displaying posters of current students, teachers and alumni.
“They had the whole nomination process. They were going to nominate two teachers, two students and two alumni of this high school,” Rodriguez said. “This student kept coming up, Berenice, over and over again. She was getting nominated by teachers, teachers and other students.”
He said the posters are displayed across campus.
“Now, you walk around in her school, you see Berenice in classrooms, in hallways, on banners as a model of excellence,” Rodriguez said. “So the kids can say, ‘Oh, who is that?’ and the teachers can say, ‘Well, let me tell you about her. She went to this school just like you and now she’s in college.’”
The final step is to take action and start the campaign with a variety of individuals, such as parents and local leaders, leading movement within the community. The concept of excellence in communities presented by Rodriguez has been implemented in four school districts.
Rodriguez presented the seven takeaways of incorporation of excellence for the the Latina/o community:
–Excellence is about recognizing no one does it alone;
–Excellence is not just academic it’s also about improvement;
–Excellence is listening and responding to our students’ voices;
–Excellence is based in our ability to learn from our own excellence;
–Excellence is responsibility. We need to own it;
–Excellence is in our community’s DNA; and
–Excellence is our legacy.