Program Founder & Director
Pete Barraza is a graduate of UCLA. During the last three years, he has served as a faculty member in the English Department at the Punahou Academy in Honolulu, HI, teaching an Honors American Literature course that functioned as a seminar focusing on the works of John Steinbeck, as well as teaching a Jazz Era Literature course developed to provide students with interdisciplinary and experiential opportunities to explore the relationship between literature, history, visual arts, and music.
While working at Santa Monica High School in Southern California, in 2007 he developed the California Literature Experience, a University of California approved innovative English course for high school students. In reading the kaleidoscopic literature of the Golden State, particularly the works of John Steinbeck, students realized that CA is made up of a multitude of voices, experiences, histories, and enclaves. An essential component to the course was to lead students on a literary journey through Steinbeck country, a 4-day curriculum-guided expedition through the Central Coast, provoking students to explore the literature read throughout the year in a tangible way. For many of the students, it was their first time away from Los Angeles, experiencing what Gerald Haslam refers to as the “many Californias” of our state. Students visited places such as The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Corral De Tierra (Steinbeck’s landscape for The Pastures of Heaven), Cannery Row, the Pacific Biological Lab of Ed Ricketts in Monterey, and Point Lobos. Along the way, students were visited by several speakers who provided lectures on various issues related to California, including the life and works of John Steinbeck.
In a recent Steinbeck Review article entitled “Teaching and Living Steinbeck’s Stories,” Barraza writes: “Teaching Steinbeck’s works connects students to their own lives, regardless of where that life is taking place…somewhere in the pages of California’s most revered writer, we can discover some element or our times—of ourselves.”