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Meet Altheria Caldera, Executive Director of the D.C. Area Writing Project

Dr. Altheria Caldera

WASHINGTONAltheria Caldera, Ph.D., assistant professor of language arts and reading, came to Howard last year to spearhead the relaunch of the D.C. Area Writing Project. A chapter of the National Writing Project, the initiative is focused on professional development for teachers of minoritized students. Caldera takes on this initiative with a wealth of knowledge, passion and experience.

Last year, she spent nine months as an Education Policy Fellow for the Intercultural Development Research Association in Texas. The program trains education activists to influence state laws. From November 2020 to July 2021, Caldera worked to combat bills being introduced in Texas that were harmful to students of color. “In Texas at that time, anti-CRT bills were being filed, so I was really active in opposing those bills and helping the public to see why they were dangerous and proposing better bills around race and equity and how history is taught and covered in schools,” she said.

Her commitment to correcting the miseducation of minority students stems from her childhood experiences. Caldera was born to an unwed, teenage mother in impoverished rural Alabama. Though her school system was essentially segregated, it was one of high quality. She exceled and was a first-generation college student, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in succession. This is not; however, indicative of the opportunities available to other students of color. The boundaries these students face are often insurmountable. Caldera’s goal is to remove these obstacles in schooling, which is so fundamental to a child’s development.

The question essential to her work is, “What does an equitable education look like?” Speaking at the writing project’s re-launch event she said, “Traditional writing instruction characterized by white language supremacy continues to fail students of color in K-12 schools.” The educational mechanisms in place in this country, especially in right-wing states, are outdated and often designed to benefit only white students. As someone who is committed to opposing the racially driven political attacks, Caldera prioritizes involvement in the political process.

Her work at Howard focuses on addressing the failures of these systems. Having spent her career as a language arts teacher, she believes that writing is the foundation of a student’s success. A student’s writing is the first demonstration of who they are and good habits and skills are transferable across disciplines. Teachers of all subjects are invited to participate in the writing project’s Summer institute.

The D.C. Area Writing Project will run from July 11-15, with a one-week Summer institute focused on strengthening teachers’ capacity to enact culturally sustaining and anti-racist writing instruction. Three Saturday sessions will follow in the Fall semester for teachers to continue this work. The application window for teachers closes on July 5, 2022. The application can be found here.