Immigrant Teens Show Their American Lives in Photos

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 10, 2008 1 min read
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Tired parents collapsed on couches resting after a hard day of work are a couple of the images that some immigrant teens from Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson, Ariz., have captured to show what life is like for their families in the United States.

Julie Kasper, a teacher at Catalina Magnet High School, organized students in her English-as-a-second-language classes to work with a local documentary photographer, Josh Schachter, to create a photo gallery to tell about their lives outside of school. A June 7 article in Tucson Weekly, “Free but Isolated,” tells about the project. The photos were hung in the midtown office of Tucson City Council Member Nina Trasoff, and you can see them online here. The photo gallery is called “Home? Teen Refugees and Immigrants Explore Their Tucson.”

I’m struck by how many of the photos show children in reflective poses. Even the boy hanging upside down from a jungle gym seems to be lost in thought. Some immigrant children probably do spend a lot of time in thought to make sense of the world they’ve come from and the one they’ve arrived in. I love the simplicity of a photo of a young woman whose face is mostly obscured yet framed by a black cloth with tiny polka dots.

I learned about the gallery through a Jan. 8 press release from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. That Alexandria,Va.-based organization selected Ms. Kasper and three other educators as finalists for the ASCD 2008 Outstanding Young Educator Award. The winner will be named in March and will receive a check for $10,000. (I updated this last paragraph on Jan. 11.)

Ms. Kasper was recognized by ASCD in particular for her work with her students in carrying out the photo project. I like how she helped English-language learners to express themselves to people who aren’t just their peers.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.