The T is Silent: An Autoethnographic Portrayal of Latinx Teacher Identity Development and Consciousness

Doctoral Candidate Name: 
Jatnna Acosta
Curriculum and Instruction

Despite evidence of the rapid growth of Latinx students throughout the country (Gándara, 2017; He & Yu, 2017), there has been inadequate critical examination of the educational policies and practices impacting this population and their self-identification. Teachers play a crucial role in ensuring that all students, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, receive a quality education that will equip them for post-school success in an increasingly diverse society. Studies suggest that teachers who share the racial, cultural, and/or ethnic identity of their students can play an important role in their success. Unfortunately, Latinx teachers remain starkly underrepresented within the field (Shapiro & Partelow, 2018), even though Latinx teacher representation plays a critical role in not only the academic achievement of Latinx students but is also prevalent in the solving of larger issues related to ethnic and racial identity development and consciousness (Goldhaber et al., 2019) because of the postcolonial structures in schools. Postcolonial structures are implicated by the structural inequality and racial and economic disparities that continue to plague racialized groups throughout society. In order to fulfill this role, Latinx teachers need to richly understand their Latinx identity development and consciousness.

The purpose of this autoethnographic study was to systematically examine and reflect on my lived experiences as an immigrant in the United States to better understand Latinx identity development and consciousness and the role of Latinx teachers in combating the exclusionary practices of postcolonial structures in schooling. Using Latinx Critical Theory (LatCrit) as the theoretical framework, this dissertation focuses on Latinx teachers and the impact of identity development on their role in the classroom. I examined my Latinx identity at different stages of my life and positioned this within the collective experiences of other Latinx teachers to better understand the factors that have contributed to my evaluation of self.

The data collected for this study consisted of a life timeline, transcribed journals I kept throughout my teaching career, cultural artifacts, and an individual autobiographical narrative. This highly reflective process was then analyzed thematically to identify themes and patterns that emerged from the data. The findings revealed three major themes: ongoing identity detachment, Latinx imposter syndrome, and unveiled hypocrisy in education. Ongoing identity detachment highlights my continued loss of identity. Latinx imposter syndrome depicts the feelings of doubt, fear, and fraud I had to overcome in my role as a bilingual teacher of emergent bilingual students. Lastly, unveiled hypocrisy in education captures my awareness and understanding of the marginalization and exclusion within the education system. This study has significant implications for the understanding of Latinx teacher identity development and the influence their self-perception has on their work within the classroom. Recommendations on how to further the discussion on identity development and consciousness and the role of Latinx teachers in combating the exclusionary practices of postcolonial structures in schooling are made to teacher preparation programs, school and district leaders, Latinx teachers, and for future research.

Keywords: postcolonial structures, raciolinguistic ideologies, internalized oppression, immigrant experience, Latinx teacher identity

Defense Date and Time: 
Monday, April 4, 2022 - 12:00pm
Defense Location: 
Committee Chair's Name: 
Dr. Lisa Merriweather
Committee Members: 
Dr. Spencer Salas (Co-Chair), Dr. Erin Miller, Dr. Jillian La Serna