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African American Studies course at San Antonio ISD


Even since becoming a secondary teacher, Coach Tamiko Matthews wanted to teach African American History. Or Mexican American Studies. Or Womens Studies. She didn’t have the opportunity to take any courses like these when she was in high school, and by the time she went to college and took those classes, her mind was blown. 


“Taking those classes did so much for me,” said the Brackenridge girls basketball coach and history teacher. “If I had learned about these amazing people when I was a high school student, I could have identified with them. We need to give our kids an opportunity to learn more about people who resemble them. It motivates them.” 


So, when in 2020, Matthews heard that the State Board of Education approved the creation of an African American Studies course, she went straight to her principal and asked if the school could offer the course - and she wanted to be the one to teach it. And now, despite COVID-related struggles, Matthews is teaching her second semester of African American Studies to 27 students at Brackenridge High School. 


The course, which was modeled on one developed in the Dallas school district, was approved by the SAISD Board this past summer. It is now being offered as a social studies elective at Sam Houston High School and the Advanced Learning Academy, in addition to Brackenridge. 


“African American Studies creates an opportunity to engage students in their school and in their community in a completely new way,” said Patrick Pyle, director of Social Studies. “It builds a sense of agency in students and helps them to perceive themselves as history makers who can shape our society and our culture.” 


Pyle says that the course introduces students to content and perspectives that are not currently included in other social studies courses, so it provides a great complement to the required social studies courses that will help students gain a more complete understanding of the history of the country. 


mural“My hope and prayer for this class is to create little agents of change,” said Matthews. “I want them to go out and change minds, not just fight. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ We have to be the light; and we have to be the loving ones when surrounded by hate. My students get that. I feel like through this class I am helping to heal a lot of hurt.” 


The SAISD Social Studies Department has supported teachers of African American Studies in different ways. They grouped the TEKS for the course into units and drafted a pacing calendar over the summer. They also identified and obtained instructional resources for the course and continue to support teachers with identifying instructional resources that correspond with each unit. 


“Our department also connected with the UTSA African American Studies Department to communicate our needs for professional development for the course, and we attended two workshops that they planned and facilitated,” said Pyle. “We are currently in the process of developing curriculum documents for the course that we hope will be a resource for teachers moving forward.” 


The course is recommended for grades 10-12 and is designed to help students develop an understanding of the historical roots of African American culture, especially as it pertains to social, economic, and political interactions within the broader context of United States history. 


The course sequence includes six units exploring topics such as Dehumanization and Forced Migration; Justification, Ramifications and Emancipation; and Life in the United States: Post Civil Rights Movement to Contemporary Times. 


Student AA“There is a lot of things I have learned in this class. It made me appreciate the people I come to school with,” said senior Adrian E. “This class has taught me that I can, in fact, change the world.” 


The African American Studies course follows the addition of a Mexican American Studies course in 2018-2019 school year. 



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