Before immigrating to the United States almost 30 years ago, Luisiana Meléndez, PhD, grew up, attended college, and taught kindergarten in the Dominican Republic. Today, she feels part of the cultures of two very different countries and is influenced by her own experiences to understand how aspects of culture, from language to family childrearing customs, impact children’s growth and development, particularly in the early years.
“When I was a kindergarten teacher, I knew I wanted to contribute to the development of other early childhood educators,” she says. “Today, through teaching and advising Erikson students, it’s my job to help them become strong and effective professionals. ”
A faculty member at Erikson since 2007, she has a passion for ensuring educators are prepared to work with children and families in an increasingly diverse environment. In her classes on the Erikson campus and online, she provides a rigorous academic curriculum as well as opportunities for students to reflect on their own cultural backgrounds. Students’ personal experiences help shape the discussions, while lessons are frequently informed by her work in the field.
Her recent projects include participating in workgroups that address a new teacher candidate assessment in use throughout Illinois as well as other states. The assessment, while strong in some areas, has been criticized for giving little consideration to candidates’ and students’ linguistic diversity, a drawback in today’s multicultural world.
In addition to her work with current and future educators, Dr. Melendez is particularly interested in how early care and education programs support emergent bilinguals between birth and age 3. Recently, she has been involved in a project that examines the views of administrators and practitioners regarding their work with young, emergent bilinguals and their families. Initial findings revealed that success in promoting bilingualism in early care and education settings was tied to clear language development goals that were shared by practitioners and families, and an understanding that bilingualism can be important for multicultural infants’ and toddlers’ social-emotional and cognitive development as well as an advantage later in life. Currently, Dr. Meléndez and a colleague are conducting an in-depth case study of an early care and education center that intentionally incorporates Spanish and English in program practices.
Dr. Meléndez also is collaborating on a long-term initiative that involves the administrators, teachers, and support staff of three early childhood centers in a large urban district. The project aims to help each program identify best practices for its work with linguistically diverse preschoolers and support administrators, teachers, and staff in the implementation and evaluation of these practices. The project is also intended to generate insights to inform district-wide practices in linguistically diverse preschool classrooms.
- BA in psychology, Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Ureña, Dominican Republic
- MEd in Early Childhood Education, Erikson Institute/Loyola University Chicago
- PhD in Child Development, Erikson Institute/Loyola University Chicago
Areas of Expertise
- Effective program and classroom practices with young, emergent bilinguals
- Developmental implications of early bilingual language development
- Child development in context
- Action research as a tool for teacher professional development
- Teacher knowledge and relationship to curricula and instructional practice
- Implications of local, state, and national policy for the education of young, emergent bilinguals
- Dual language learners birth-to-three: Voices of Practitioners.
- Dual Language Learners Birth-to-Three: A Look into Program Quality
- Every Child Ready for Kindergarten
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- Melendez, L. Using Children’s Books as a Social Studies Curriculum Strategy. Young Children, 70, 48- 55
- Ray, A. & Melendez, L. Creating Multicultural and Linguistically Responsive Early Childhood Classrooms. In J. P. Roopnarine & J. Johnson (Eds.) (2011) Approaches to Early Childhood Education (2011)
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- Responding to Linguistic Diversity: Bilingualism–Administrators’ Seminar, Buffet Early Childhood Institute, Omaha, NE, January 20, 2017
- El Lenguaje Oral como Base del Pensamiento y Aprendizaje: Estrategias y Estrategas; Buffet Early Childhood Institute Professional Development for All, 2016-17 Series, Omaha, NE. January 19 and 21, 2017
- Oral language birth to age eight: Implications of the multiple contexts of development: Home, community, and school. Buffet Early Childhood Institute Professional Development for All, 2016-17 Series, Omaha, NE. January 19 and 21, 2017
- Supporting dual language learners, from birth to age 3: What do we know? How can we support practitioners and enhance program quality? Presentation with Sharon Syc, PhD, at the Annual Conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Los Angeles, CA, November 3, 2016
- Cultural Relevant Care and Teaching — Fulfilling America’s Future: Research, Practice, and Policy Advancing Early Childhood Education for Hispanics — Symposium sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, June 17, 2015
- Preparing Every Teacher for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students in an Era of Higher Academic Standards — Presentation with Dr. Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro of the Latino Policy Forum on the Gateway to Opportunity Conference in Bloomington, IL, April 10, 2015
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Related professional experiences
- September 2014-present: Chicago Consortium of School Research Steering Committee
- Fall 2012-present: Early Childhood Committee Illinois Bilingual Advisory Council
- September 2014-present: Advisory Board for ExceleRate Illinois Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness Award of Excellence