Teacher Gets the X

By Elizabeth Rich — June 13, 2008 1 min read
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Karen Salazar is a second-year English teacher with a master’s degree in education from UCLA. She teaches at Jordan High School in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and, according to LatinoLA, her class is popular, regularly drawing students better known for their imperfect attendance. She has been asked not to return in the fall.

Observed 15 times in the past year, Salazar was criticized by an administrator for teaching The Autobiography of Malcolm X—a sanctioned L.A. Unified School District book—to her class. A union official shared a critique against Salazar with the Los Angeles Times that described her teaching as “too Afro-centric.” Salazar and others told the Los Angeles Times that an assistant principal accused her of brainwashing students.

Salazar’s overall campus review describes her as “definitely a teacher who wants kids to wake up and look around them and ask questions and be motivated and be engaged.” Salazar’s mentor and veteran teacher Miranda Manners agrees. “I did not see the same things that administrator said he saw,” said Manners. “I saw a new, young teacher teaching her lesson according to the objectives she stated on the board. I saw her engage with her students and interacting with them in a very positive way.” Sixteen teachers have threatened to resign or seek transfers in protest. And her students have taken their outrage online with a YouTube video.

The vice president for the United Teachers Los Angeles has little hope for Salazar returning to Jordan, “I think she was a terrific teacher, who had a real connection with kids, but teachers in her position have a hard time winning these battles.” Salazar would have earned district tenure with one more year of teaching.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.