Immigrant teachers as intercultural workers
Mejia-Quijano, Esperanza Azucena
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Freire characterized teachers as cultural workers, asserting teaching as a political act and arguing that teachers are inherently activists. This qualitative study examines Freire’s vision by investigating the experiences of eight immigrant teachers who can best be described as intercultural workers, or harmonizers who build bridges between their native cultures and their host cultures. Three teachers from Colombia, and one each from Mexico, Korea, Poland, Singapore and Spain, describe how their teaching experiences are shaped by their own agentic processes and an on-going negotiation of cultural identity. Denzin’s critical, interpretive interactionist approach is applied in the research, combining interviews, narrative analysis, and performance texts to allow experience to come alive in the form of dialogues, poems, or stories. Implications are relevant for teachers, administrators, and teacher educators because of the increasing importance of intercultural understanding in the U.S. and the growing numbers of immigrant teachers as well as immigrant students.