Roosevelt University Professors Release New Book with Advice on Teaching Latinos

Salsa Dancing

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–February 17, 2015.  Aiming to improve academic achievement among growing numbers of Latino students in Chicago and beyond, a new book by two Roosevelt University professors offers advice to teachers for reaching and succeeding with students who typically perform below whites, blacks and Asians in reading, math and the sciences.

Published in January, Salsa Dancing in Gym Shoes: Exploring Cross-Cultural Missteps with Latinos in the Classroom by Roosevelt professors Tammy Oberg De La Garza and Alyson Lavigne is the first book in teacher education and development to combine narrative, research and practice in order to help teachers more effectively reach Latino students.

“We want to help teachers better understand cultural issues that can affect the way Latino students learn,” said Oberg De La Garza, who teamed with Lavigne to write and edit the book containing essays by prominent Latino/a authors who shed light on identity development, racism and  the politics of language. 

The book recommends using community learning approaches to reach Latinos who frequently identify with large and extended families and take their direction at home from elders. It also suggests playing down the importance of typical American values like individualism and self-sufficiency, which the professors contend can conflict with the typical Latino experience.

Essayists sharing thoughts on what can spark/diffuse cultural clashes include: Elena Garcia Ansani, a first-generation Mexican American and executive director of Latino Resources in Evanston, Ill.; Sarah Rafael Garcia, and Mexican American and the first U.S. citizen on both sides of her family; Mayra Carrillo-Daniel, a Cuban native with extensive experience working with K-12 teachers; Elvis Sánchez, a second-generation Puerto Rican raised in New York; Josie Prado, an assistant professor of English Language Learner Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Laura Guzmán-DuVernois,  a Latina vice principal of an  urban school living in El Paso,Texas.

“Our goal with Salsa Dancing in Gym Shoes is to get teachers to step outside their comfort zone and belief system to better understand the experience and perspective of those whose backgrounds are different,” added Lavigne.

Both faculty members in Roosevelt’s College of Education, Oberg De La Garza is an assistant professor of language and literacy and Lavigne is an assistant professor of curriculum studies.  The two will host a book launch and signing party at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27 at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago.  The event is open to the public and Chicago-area teachers and administrators who are dedicated to improving learning opportunities for Latino students are invited to attend.

For more information or to obtain a copy of the new book, visit or