One Spanish teacher in Anniston strives to educate students on Afro-Latino identity and culture, taking on conversations that are often more difficult to initiate.
"The first reaction is that they are uncomfortable, because the children I teach are White Americans. So, it's awkward for them because it's not a conversation that's being had," Jenniffer Whyte said.
Whyte is a Spanish teacher at the Donoho School in Anniston who uses her background and Afro-Latina identity to address topics that are not widely taught in Alabama.
She says there is a lack of education on Afro-Latinos throughout the state and that Latin American culture portrayed in the media often does not show a good representation of these individuals.
"If I do a unit about careers or looking for work, I show photos of people who are Afro-Latino who have good jobs and who are successful, because sometimes, the only representation of Afro-Latinos in a soap opera may be slaves or witches and you never see a positive representation," Whyte said.
In foreign language education, Whyte says that the curriculum often leaves out the full range of diversity in groups like Latin Americans.
"When we teach Spanish in schools, the representation in books and videos and in all the teaching—they are all light-skinned Latinos with straight hair, red or blond hair and fairly light skin. I think as a teacher, it's very important that I let my students know that yes, there are Latin Americans of all colors," Whyte said.
Whyte uses surveys as a way to gauge where students begin with knowledge on different racial topics, so that she can figure how to best connect with students.
She says that while students may be initially uncomfortable approaching these topics, they become more willing to share and ask questions in her classes over the years.
"It's a privilege for me and it's a passion for me to share with my students this topic that's so important to all students to know about diversity," Whyte said.