Juanita Montes de Oca: closing the education achievement gap  

RI Latino News

Juanita Montes de Oca serves as Generation Citizen’s Senior Manager of National Program and Curricular Development, where she supports national programming and leads org-wide curricular strategy and innovation.

“One of the things we do really well, and there’s always room for improvement, is creating a democratic classroom culture,” said Montes de Oca about the work Generation Citizen leads. “That’s ensuring the curriculum and the space that it’s taught in is student centered, it’s student driven,” she continued in a panel discussion on C-SPAN.

Juanita Montes de Oca, Education and Civic Engagement, C-SPAN

Montes de Oca says the education that GC provides is not action based; it’s project baaed learning. ”(It’s) ensuring that students have the confidence, the space, the vocabulary, the activities to look at the different issues.” She talked about how the classroom creating a constitution, a living document for the semester is productive in the student’s academic experience.

Montes de Oca was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series. Before joining the GC team in 2017, she taught Action Civics and Social Studies in Providence middle schools for five years.

While teaching Action Civics at Roger Williams middle school, her students founded a Student Council, met with district officials to discuss strategies for increasing teacher diversity, and testified to the Superintendent and School Board about closing the achievement gap between Multi-Language Learners and their peers. What has made Montes de Oca truly most proud is the long-lasting impact GC has made on her students with whom she still maintains relationships today.

“At a time when there is little optimism in our political world, Juanita’s work is actively igniting the passion of students…,” wrote Tom Kerr-Vanderslice, Director of External Affairs at Sophia Academy. “In Juanita’s classes, students understood and worked to address the root causes of systemic issues in practical and creative ways. I saw her students debate with the Mayor of Providence about pension reform, advocate over the phone to their state representatives, and realize how they could use their voices to make change.”

As a passionate advocate for educational social justice, Montes de Oca has served on various advisory boards and working groups. As a Providence Public School parent and resident, she was also a member of the RIDE Community Design Team.

Montes de Oca holds a B.A. in Elementary Education with a content major in Social Studies from Rhode Island College, Feinstein School of Education. She is an alum of the Institute for Nonprofit Practice Core which equips nonprofit, public and social impact leaders with the skills, knowledge, and networks they need to make strategic, mission-driven decisions that center diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and affect meaningful change in their organizations and beyond.

Cover photo courtesy: Generation Citizen.

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