Critical Approaches to Heritage Language Education:
Centering Identities, Race, and Power in Language Reclamation

July 22–26, 2024
1-week in-person summer institute

image of instructors Thomas, Cushing-Leubner, and Eik Diggs
Aracely Thomas, Jenna Cushing-Leubner,
and J. Eik Diggs

Heritage language learners bring a range of vital language and literacy histories, connections with communities, and complex intercultural knowledge. Unfortunately, typical world language curriculum and teacher preparation aren’t designed for heritage learners to expand their confidence and truly thrive. Heritage language teachers can disrupt language loss, help heal wounds from subtractive schooling, and nourish a sustainable multilingual future.

This institute advocates for critical approaches and a healing-centered paradigm to language teaching. This starts with identifying ways that heritage learners have been denied access to the natural development of bilingualism and biliteracy (e.g., institutional racism, impacts of colonialism, linguistic xenophobia). Then the institute dives into transformational teaching practices that create fertile spaces to regenerate language confidence and learners’ connections to generational knowledge and strengths. By redesigning language learning environments and curriculum in ways that focus on personal, complex, and collective identities, as well as real-world issues that matter to youth, teachers can create spaces that reclaim heritage languages for future generations.

Program Schedule (9am-4pm)
Day 1 Knowing Our Languages and Learners
  • Who are Heritage Language Speakers/Learners?
  • Heritage vs. Foreign Language Learning
  • Principles of Heritage Language Education Using Critical Pedagogies
Day 2 Curriculum Development: Identity Texts
  • Identity Texts and Language Confidence
  • Multimodal Identity Texts
Day 3 (Heritage) Language Arts Teaching
  • Using a Language Arts Approach
  • Arts-Based Language Approaches
Day 4 Curriculum Development: Communities and Content
  • Community-Based Learning
  • Youth-Led Participatory Action Research & Critical Service Learning
Day 5 Teaching and Learning Together
  • Unpacking Language Ideologies
  • Race and Ethnic Studies Approaches for Language Reclamation Goals

After this institute, participants will be able to:

  • Identify a range of assets that heritage learners bring to the language classroom;

  • Explain multiple ways to maintain and strengthen multilingualism, public voice, and literacy confidence;

  • Draw from youth-driven models to support heritage learners and facilitate community-connected learning;

  • Use multimodal tools and techniques to create heritage language specific texts and materials; and

  • Apply a variety of identity texts approaches to recognize, generate, and set goals for language reclamation and growth.


Jenna Cushing-Leubner is an Associate Professor of Heritage/World Language, Bilingual/Bicultural Education, and TESOL at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has been collaborating with heritage language educators and families to design curriculum, texts, and instructional practices for over a decade. She is the creator and coordinator of UW-Whitewater’s online heritage language education professional development programming, and the co-convener of Lub Zej Zog’s Hmong Language Reclamation Project.

J. Eik Diggs is a PhD candidate at the University of Arizona and a licensed Spanish language and ESL teacher with over a decade of experience with heritage language curriculum design and teaching. She developed and taught a multi-year high school Spanish as a Heritage Language program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, infusing ethnic studies, the arts, identity work, and youth participatory action research.

Aracely Thomas (guest instructor) is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota and a licensed Spanish language teacher with over a decade of experience as a heritage language teacher and program advocate. She developed and taught a high school Spanish heritage language program in Farmington, MN, integrating Freirian pedagogies with current events, arts-based language arts, and gender-conscious curriculum.

Target Audience
This institute is designed for teachers of heritage language, world language, Indigenous language, and English as a Second Language learners at the middle school through postsecondary level. It is not designed for the elementary school level.

Priority Teacher Professional Development Scholarship Program

Logo - PriorityThe Priority Teacher Professional Development Scholarship program is designed to promote equity and access to affordable professional development for world language educators who are currently teaching at a Community College, Minority Serving Institution, or Historically Black College/University in the United States and/or are currently teaching a Less Commonly Taught Language in the United States. The program provides funding for selected teachers in these categories to attend a CARLA Summer Institute for no charge.

Learn more and apply on the Priority Teacher Professional Development Scholarship website.

Quote MarksRight quote marksThrough this institute I gained more confidence, motivation, and knowledge to teach my Heritage Learners course.
Stacey Kinsella, 2023 Institute Participant
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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414