Kim Strong has dedicated her work to spreading the love and kindness her supportive community of immigrant and bilingual family members and friends have afforded her.
“As the parent of an ‘English learner’ child, partner to a Spanish-speaking immigrant, and tía/cuñada/prima/comadre to wonderful in-laws and friends, my work is in large part inspired by my family and those I love,” she said. “It's my admittedly nerdy way to return a tiny fraction of the love and care they have shown me—how could I feel anything but passionate about what I do?”
Strong came to the Equity, Bilingualism and Biliteracy doctoral program after working for government programs designed to support — but more often failing to fully see or serve— Spanish-speaking families. She wanted to learn more about these challenges to make change for the communities she cares about.
Notoriously humble, Strong has been named the 2023 Outstanding Graduate award for Community Engagement and Public Scholarship for her tenacious and often behind-the-scenes work with bilingual educators and families.
Strong’s advisor, Kathy Escamilla, points to her proficiency in Spanish and English an asset for her community engagement work, and the many years Strong spent learning Spanish as a second language is a testament of her commitment to this work.
Escamilla, a ground-breaking scholar in bilingual education, and CU Boulder’s BUENO Center for Multicultural Education have had a long-standing partnership with the Denver-based Congress for Hispanic Educators (CHE). Made up current and retired educators, CHE has advocated for educational equity for emerging bilingual learners for over 50 years. Strong jumped at the opportunity to support this partnership with Escamilla, and while many doctoral students have engaged with Escamilla and this partnership in the past, none have shown her level of committment in time, energy, or passion, Escamilla said.
Strong has earned the trust and respect of the CHE’s membership and leadership, and she was hand-picked by a long-time CHE leader to document the CHE-BUENO Center’s history and legacy in Colorado as an important chapter in the forthcoming book, “¡Qué BUENO! The History and Legacy of the BUENO Center.”
As an additional exampl of her impact, Escamilla and Strong were tapped to conduct a materials review after teachers in the Denver Public Schools expressed dissatisfaction and concern that their Spanish-language materials were not equivalent to the English materials in elementary schools. Strong expertly led this effort, soliciting help from a group of doctoral students and establishing at least two material reviewers who were bilingual and had expertise in teaching for each content area. The project’s resulting report and rubrics are currently used by the district to assess any newly adopted materials for cross-language equivalence.
When Strong and peers are celebrated at graduation, she will be Escamilla’s final doctoral advisee. The incoming generation of educational equity leaders have indeed benefited from the field's forebearers, like Escamilla, and also the future is in good hands with scholars like Strong, who is quietly, doggedly committed to equity and justice and willing to take on challenges in education in the name of change and justice.
“Kim is a person who has talent, intelligence, a good work ethic and organization,” Escamilla said. “For being so early in her career, she is an accomplished scholar, is a rigorous and caring teacher educator, and has a deep commitment to the development of bilingualism, social justice, and community involvement.”