Maria Leija, PhD
Dr. Leija earned her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a former elementary teacher who taught for six years in Idaho. During that time, she helped develop and implement an 80/20 two-way bilingual immersion program, was a Spanish dual language teacher, and taught in the mainstream class while supporting the academic language development of her emerging bilingual students. Her dissertation explored how a bilingual teacher incorporated Latinx students’ linguistic, cultural, and experiential knowledge through interactive read aloud. The dissertation highlights the importance of providing bilingual students a space to discuss complex issues, such as immigration, language ideologies, and cultural practices through children’s literature. Her research focuses on elementary Latinx preservice and in-service teachers’ pedagogical practices in Spanish/English bilingual classrooms. Leija utilizes Latino critical race theory to examine classroom discourse and pedagogical practices. She has examined and published on the use of children’s literature for teaching the social studies and language arts by analyzing themes such as immigration, gender, and Latinx community cultural practices.