Ambassador Connections: Meet Juan Alvarado

Learn what motivates Texas ambassador Juan Alvarado to embed news literacy in his teaching. Ambassador Connections is a series highlighting NewsLitNation Ambassadors.

1. As a NewsLitNation ambassador, you clearly are committed to news literacy education. What drives that commitment? 

The one event that triggered or motivated me to find a better way to teach news literacy occurred during the late months of 2020. As a high school teacher, it was common to hear my students talk to one another regarding common topics like the presidential election and other social media trends. However, they only discussed vague ideas and very often they misstated facts and quoted sources that were very questionable. It was at this point that I committed myself to educate my students, so that they could become better digital citizens. Thankfully, I discovered as the source to help me teach news literacy.

2. What is your favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy that you can share with the community? 

The best tip I can give other educators and our community is to never draw conclusions based on hearsay. With the waning number of credible news outlets, it is much more imperative to fact-check or compare a story by using a variety of sources. However, I strongly believe that a healthy level of skepticism is needed to keep our media and press in check, while at the same time allowing them to do their job. No single news outlet should be trusted blindly. Nonetheless, many news outlets do a good job of reporting candidly and without bias, making them credible sources.

3. These are particularly challenging times for being an educator. What has been your go-to de-stressor? 

For almost two years, our students were forced to learn in very different settings and unique ways. Most teachers have adapted to the changes, but getting back to the same teaching trends prior to the COVID pandemic has been a challenge. This was and has been especially true with my emergent bilingual students because they lost access to the one place where they could comfortably speak, read and write in the language they struggled with the most. Many of my students live across the border and connectivity was and still is a major concern. However, our school works hard to provide students with the tools they need. To help my students get the practice and to teach them more efficiently, I sought various digital learning platforms and programs, and among them was News Literacy. When I connected with them, I made sure to call on every student to engage with me, even if it was for just a brief moment. Since participation and engagement are the norms in my class, students know that they need to be ready to participate. Distance learning reaffirmed what I strongly believed: empathy and student accountability can be practiced at the same time if a good balance exists between them.

The one go-to de-stressor I have discovered is the ability to enjoy nature and spend as much time doing chores or tasks that involved being outdoors. I neither consider myself an avid hiker nor a gardener, but I do enjoy spending time walking along nature trails as well as tending to my garden.

4. How does being a News Literacy ambassador help your community? 

I feel that being a News Literacy ambassador has allowed me to share a very good resource that many educators and community members can use. It is not easy to live in an area that very often gets a bad reputation for being less informed or misinformed, but that is why being an ambassador has gone a long way in gaining my community’s trust. It is my goal to get not only my school but also neighboring districts to see as their go-to source for news literacy.

5. What lesson, topic or activity are you most excited to bring to your classroom, and why?  

I think I partially answered this question already, but the topic I feel very strongly about is how racist news coverage has left a very negative legacy. News bias has been around for a long time, but many of us are just realizing that it is an issue that has become very difficult to get rid of. I am excited to teach these units [Understanding Bias and Harm & Distrust] to my students.

NLP Note: If you would like to see these and other Checkology® lessons, please register for a free educator account, if you have not done so already.

6. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about? 

I am a passionate believer in inclusivity in my classroom. My classroom is a safe zone and my students have come to expect that. For example, my students know that they are free to discuss topics in an open and respectful way. They know that literature can sometimes spark controversial yet relevant discussions, and as long as students treat each other with respect they are welcome to participate. In fact, almost every year, during our school’s teacher appreciation week festivities, I receive at least one or two letters thanking me for being an inclusive and fair teacher.

7. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? 

My son and daughter’s love of animals has made me a proud owner of four mixed-breed dogs. They are a handful at times, but I enjoy taking care of them.

Are you also interested in pushing back against misinformation? NLP is seeking middle and high school educators in Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan and Texas, to join our national News Literacy Ambassador Program. Deadline is July 31. Click here for details!

Ambassador Connections: Meet Deborah Domingues-Murphy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Deborah Domingues-Murphy, library media specialist
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1. As a NewsLitNation ambassador, you clearly are committed to news literacy education. What drives that commitment?

My grandmother was a naturalized citizen. She taught all of us from a young age to be active in our civic duties, especially when it came to voting. She participated in every election from the time she received her citizenship well into her 100s. She read up on the candidates and the issues. She had ongoing correspondence with all the presidents dating back to Eisenhower up to the Clinton administration. I want my students to want to be involved in their community, hold our elected officials accountable. To do that, they need to know what is happening and that requires them to be smart consumers of news information.

2. What is your favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy?

I use a lot of NLP materials. Two of my “go-tos” are the RumorGuard images and Checkology. I use the RumorGuard images to see how well my students can discern the accuracy of the image. They are learning how to apply the five factors  for credibility: authenticity, source, evidence, context, reasoning. The other is Checkology, it is so adaptable. I can use lessons as part of direct instruction as well as assign a number of them to extend learning. The fact that the lessons are self-grading makes implementing it so easy.

3. These are particularly challenging times for educators. What has been your go-to de-stressor?

In my class, I try to bring in some mindfulness exercises and practices. I have set routines in my class and start each class period with 5 minutes of silence. Students have told me it is the only time in the day they don’t feel stressed out. One described it as finally breathing, not feeling like he is always holding his breath. For me personally, I also do mindfulness exercises that include guided meditation and yoga. I also do watercolors and knit.

4. Design your own student questions for an event relevant to your region.

Pennsylvania is frequently a battleground state. As a result, there is a lot of disinformation and misinformation. We are bringing the NLP PitchIt! contest to Pennsylvania. Working with the school district (Allegheny Intermediate Unit), we want to give students a platform to write an evidence-supported essay about the topics of a free press and news literacy.

5. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?

I never pass up on an opportunity to go to new places. I love learning about different cultures, eating local foods, seeing amazing sites.

6. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?

Team dog all the way (although wombats are a close second)

Learn more about all our NewsLitNation ambassadors and check out the profiles of Amanda Escheman and K.C. Boyd.

In spring 2023, NLP will be looking for more ambassadors to join our movement. Interested? Contact  for more information.

Ambassador Connections: Meet Amanda Escheman

This is the first in an occasional series featuring our NewsLit Nation ambassadors.

Amanda Escheman, Denver

1. As a NewsLit Nation ambassador, you clearly are committed to news literacy education. What drives that commitment?

As an elder millennial, I had access to the internet growing up, and social media became popular during my high school years. I was a captain on our high school speech and debate team and was never afraid to bring up tough topics around the dining room table. I was appalled by the echo chamber I found myself in and appreciated the critical lens I was forming as a competitor in forensics. I engaged in critical thinking with fidelity and was inspired to pursue my bachelor’s in philosophy. It was in college that I developed literacy in critical processing, and I fell in love with education.

Now, as a social studies teacher, I am committed to helping others navigate and interrogate digital content in its many forms and break out of their own echo chambers. Often, digital consumers seem content with sharing unvetted information that reaffirms their biases, and media outlets exploit this vulnerability. The impact on the democratic process is striking; misinformation begets misinformed voters. I can see no greater threat to democracy than a misinformed electorate. This is truly an “us vs. the machine” challenge. Freedom of press grants news organizations the responsibility of guiding the public to make informed decisions. However, the digital renaissance has transformed the information machine into a tool for the attention economy. The value of profit seems to outweigh the value of an informed electorate. Within the classroom, I have the opportunity to do my part in helping students become thoughtful consumers of online content, and moreover, considerate participants in democracy. Critical literacies must evolve to address the changing landscape of news and other digital media.

2. What is your favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy that you can share with the community?

I am a huge “X-Files” nerd and have always loved the absurdity of conspiracies and the suspension of logic in the sci-fi genre. To share my joy in the absurd, I would instruct a lesson on the Roswell Investigation. Students analyzed primary and secondary sources to form an opinion and explain their reasoning. This was always great fun.

However, in online spaces it becomes more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction. Information can be more easily manipulated, and most people lack the digital literacy skills needed to analyze and evaluate media. I have assigned various lessons through Checkology® to drill down on topics like search engines and algorithms as a way to bring awareness to the way online tools can shape and limit our experiences. The first step in teaching news literacy is to realize that we are fish in a digital data stream and must become aware of the water around us.

3. These are particularly challenging times for being an educator. What has been your go-to de stressor?

I am a history teacher, so I binge period shows like “Outlander.” I am also a collector of historical artifacts including old and rare books, the Civil War/Revolutionary War relics, antiques, and other items I can leverage to inspire my learners to engage. I recently started collecting antique, shellac 78’s and restored a gramophone from 1920. Now I am obsessed with genealogy and have fallen into the rabbit hole of ancestry research.

4. How do you promote news literacy outside of the classroom?

This spring I co-hosted a series of webinars with The Colorado Sun to discuss the foundations of news literacy, teaching controversial issues in the classroom and teaching news literacy during the midterms. Our goal was to inform other educators how to navigate news literacy in education. It is my hope to help integrate news literacy instructional methods into more professional development circles.

5. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?

I am passionate about student civic engagement in local politics. Across the political spectrum, students need to engage with local party leaders and feel invested in their communities. For example, in Colorado, party members under the age of 18 can caucus! Within the Democratic caucus someone who is 16 years old can even vote! This is one way that students can make a political mark and elect local, state and national leadership in a big way.

Are you also interested in fighting misinformation? NLP is seeking middle and high school educators in Hawai’i, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, to join our national News Literacy Ambassador Program. Deadline is July 31. Click here for details!

News Literacy Ambassador Program is growing  

NLP’s News Literacy Ambassador Program, a national initiative to mobilize educators and amplify organizing efforts in the fight against misinformation, is an essential part of our ambitious four-year plan to build a more news-literate nation, and, in turn, a more robust, equitable democracy.

That’s why we are expanding this program with a call for applications from middle and high school educators living in Hawai’i, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Southwest Texas and Utah.

We’re looking for people who can have an immediate and meaningful impact on our work, are unafraid to experiment, can work collaboratively as well as independently and believe in the importance of quality professional learning to empower educators to teach middle and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

To reach NLP’s goal of embedding news literacy in the American education experience, we are activating the ambassadors as a regional movement-building model to mobilize news literacy advocates for systemic change. The overall goal is for ambassadors to champion news literacy education at the local level, helping educators teach students how to think (not what to think).

Advocates for news literacy education who want to make a difference in their community can learn more and apply by July 31. These part-time positions include a small stipend. Find out more about NLP’s current news literacy ambassadors here.For questions, please email [email protected].

All educators interested in exchanging resources and receiving timely updates about news literacy may join NLP’s NewsLit Nation Facebook Group.

News Literacy Ambassador program welcomes five new members

After a successful launch in October 2020, NLP is expanding its News Literacy Ambassador Program, extending our reach and strengthening our progress toward embedding news literacy in the American education system.

“Through a rigorous process of identifying educators in key states across the country, we’re pleased to announce this incredible group of news literacy advocates who are leading the charge to ensure that students are well-informed and engaged civic participants in their communities,” said Ebonee Rice, senior vice president, educator network.

Ambassadors work at the grassroots level in their communities, organizing colleagues and allies to help push back against misinformation and advocate for news literacy. Meet our new ambassadors below and learn more about all of them in NewsLit Nation.

Deborah Domingues-Murphy

After her children left for college, Domingues-Murphy went back to school to earn a teaching degree, becoming certified as a business and technology teacher and a library media specialist. Originally from Southern California, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has been teaching at City Charter High School in downtown Pittsburgh for 12 years. Because her school does not have a library, she teaches a four-year information literacy curriculum, working with students from the time they enter ninth grade through graduation. She teaches them to evaluate the reliability of sources and how to responsibly use those sources and the information they provide. They also write literature reviews, apply their research to a local topic and present their findings to a panel of community members. When not teaching, Domingues-Murphy likes to travel, read and cook. 

Amanda Escheman

A native of Colorado, Escheman teaches 9th grade geography at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver. She has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in religion from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2019, she received her master’s degree in education and human development from the University of Colorado at Denver and began her career as an English and social studies teacher. Her desire to become a teacher is rooted in her experiences as a speech and debate competitor in high school. Escheman believes news literacy can be a tool for transformation and social change and must be prioritized to democratize online spaces and encourage civic participation. Escheman is a member of the One Colorado LGBTQ+ network and regularly advocates for more inclusive space in public schools. She has served as an equity and diversity liaison and member of the LGBTQ+ employee workgroup and on the Community Diversity Advisory Council.

Jill Hofmockel

Hofmockel brings more than 20 years of experience in school libraries to her position as the teacher-librarian at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in library and information science. A longtime member of the Iowa Association of School Librarians, Hofmockel has served as a committee chair, board member and president, as well as a liaison to the American Association of School Librarians Affiliate Assembly. She is committed to incorporating information literacy skills throughout the school’s curriculum, with a special emphasis on news literacy. Outside of the classroom, Hofmockel coaches her son’s high school esports team and enjoys sharing a cup of tea with her daughter.

Debbie Keen

Keen is a high school teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center in Frisco, Texas, specializing in courses for students interested in pursuing careers in law or public service. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and promotes civics education in classrooms across the country. Keen has presented teacher workshops to such groups as the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education, the American Board of Trial Advocates and The Center for American and International Law. In 2018, Keen founded the Youth Safety and Civility Alliance to promote civil discourse and conflict resolution strategies for young people. The American Lawyers Alliance selected her for a 2020 Teacher of the Year Award. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and learning alongside other creative teachers.

Molly June Roquet

Head librarian at Redwood Day, an independent K-8 school in Oakland, California, Roquet has been a middle school history teacher and a public librarian. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in library and information science from Wayne State University. Roquet has presented at the American Library Association and California Library Association annual conferences and has written for the publications Computers in Libraries and Information Today. Roquet is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with others as an NLP ambassador.