Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Sherry Marx


Sherry Marx


Karin DeJonge-Kannan


J. Spencer Clark


Cinthya M. Saavedra


Amy Alexandra Wilson-Lopez


The achievement gap between White students and students of color has long been a concern of educators. It is well established that critical pedagogy and culturally relevant teaching practices increase the possibility of academic achievement for ethnic minority students; yet, throughout the U.S., the implementation of such practices has been less than optimal. It is also clear that some teachers are doing an excellent job of teaching students of color. However, it is not clear what those teachers are doing and what their practices look like, particularly in secondary classrooms and for Latina/o students—the fastest growing ethnic minority population in the U.S. Are successful teachers of Latina/o youth engaging in critical pedagogy or culturally relevant teaching practices? Have they developed caring, empathetic relationships with students that result in greater engagement and academic success? Using a multifaceted theoretical framework of critical social theory, seen specifically through the lenses of culturally relevant pedagogy,

empathy and false empathy, critical studies in Whiteness, and critical race theory, this ethnographic multiple-case study aimed to answer those questions. By observing and interviewing educators whom principals, teachers, and parents all nominated as “successful” for the Latina and Latino students in a particular school, and identifying the teaching strategies and classroom management routines they employed, I hoped to illuminate key practices and underlying attitudes that other teachers can emulate as they strive to reach and teach Latina/o students.



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