Introducing VOW’s New Curriculum Specialist Amplifying Stories of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico

Voice of Witness is excited to introduce Dr. Zaira Arvelo Alicea, the new Curriculum Specialist for VOW’s oral history book project Mi María: Surviving the Storm.
Zaira Arvelo Alicea

Mi María is a forthcoming collection of first-person narratives of Hurricane María and its aftermath in Puerto Rico, amplifying the stories of survivors across the island. Zaira is one of the narrators featured in the book. She tells her story of surviving the hurricane by lying on top of an air mattress as her apartment filed with floodwater, and the failures of FEMA and the federal government to provide support for Puerto Ricans afterward.

Each oral history book in the Voice of Witness series includes Common Core-aligned curricular resources available for free download on our website. These lesson plans focus on the human rights and social justice issues featured in each book and include activities for students that foster empathy, critical thinking, and social-emotional learning.

As the Curriculum Specialist, Zaira will collaborate with the VOW education team to develop and write the curriculum for the upcoming book focused on stories of Hurricane María and its impact—bringing these crucial narratives to classrooms and communities across the country and beyond.

On working with Voice of Witness, Zaira says:

The English as a second language specialist, curriculum designer, hurricane survivor, and narrator in me are thrilled to be part of a project that will share the brave stories of what transpired before, during, and after the natural phenomenon and human-made disaster that is el huracán María.

Zaira Arvelo Alicea is a writer, editor, and educator with a long history of instruction focused on English language learners in the continental United States and Puerto Rico. She has authored over 15 publications on the connection between social skills and literacy, engaging Latino communities, Latino and Caribbean literature, and Puerto Rico after Hurricane María. Zaira is a speaker on equitable education and approaches for delivering quality education to English language learners, and she also designs virtual trainings on pedagogy, writing, and communication for higher education, industry, nonprofits, and K-12 educators. Zaira was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, a mountainous town in the countryside of the archipelago with an established tradition of anticolonial insurgency. She currently lives on the Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico’s largest island where she spearheads a small business operation.

We are thrilled to be working with Zaira to create educational resources for Mi María: Surviving the Storm. Welcome, Zaira!

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