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Jamila Banks

  • Graduate of Howard University, Washington, DC

  • Bilingual Teacher (English/Spanish), Loreto Street Elementary School - Los Angeles Unified School District

  • Certified Instructor - Multicultural/Diversity Education

  • Student at The Center for Bilingual and Multicultural Studies, Cuernavaca, Mexico

  • Translation Assistant - American Red Cross National Headquarters, Washington DC

Jamila is an enthusiastic individual who has always had a curious interest about the world. Her first international travel experience was in 1989. She was selected to play on an amateur women's basketball team to participate in tournaments in Sweden and Finland. She was fifteen years old and it was a great way to begin to travel.

As a young child, Jamila had an interest in learning a second language, and took Latin in middle school and Spanish in high school. When she entered Howard University, she decided to make Spanish her minor. Jamila felt that to make her learning experiences more authentic, she had to study abroad, and went to Cuernavaca, Mexico. Moving from Howard University, a historically African-American university, to the Center for Bilingual and Multicultural Studies, where she was the only African-American student, was culture shock, but she survived! This was the beginning of her road to international travel addiction. Living in Mexico helped her gain a better understanding and appreciation for traditions and cultures other than her own.

After years of studying the Spanish language, Jamila decided that speaking Spanish had to be a part of her career. She began her first teaching experience in Watts, California, which is a culturally rich yet economically deprived urban area of Los Angeles. Teaching in Watts was one of the most positive, memorable experiences of her life. Jamila taught in a Dual Immersion Language Program. In this program, both English speakers and Spanish speakers are immersed in the Spanish language for core curriculum subject areas from grades K-5. The school is composed of African-American and Latino students who made it a wonderful bridging experience with the community.

Jamila is passionate about life and enhancing the lives of children through education. She has always been a strong advocate for social justice, and this is the focus of her classroom. At Loreto Street Elemantary School, Jamila teaches her students to be critical thinkers and to be advocates for social change. In the Multicultural/Diversity course that she teaches, she conveys to educators that Multicultural Education incorporates more than race and culture; it includes socio-economic diversity as well. She enjoys this work because it allows educators, students and parents of all generations to think critically about the world that exists today.

Jamila loves to travel, and in recent years she's traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Japan, and several regions of the United States as a non-traditional traveler: she likes to stay where the local people stay and do what the local people do. What she finds most intriguing about The Odyssey is that it provides a global forum for educational interaction with children, and advocates hands-on, cooperative learning by working together as a team to accomplish a united goal. This is an excellent model for children who will need these important team-building skills to function in a multicultural society.

In her free time, Jamila plays in both a co-ed and women's basketball league, and hikes, runs, bikes, and does water sports.

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