Across the globe a number of restrictive education policies and social realities have worked to distance teachers, students, and curriculum from each other, particularly in under-resourced public schools serving low-income students and families. Increased standardization in language curriculum and testing has devalued local knowledge, undermined teachers’ professional judgment, autonomy, and creativity at a time when people, products, finances, political movements and media are more fluid, dynamic and mobile than ever. In this presentation I share how integrating community explorations and investigations into language teacher education programs has helped teachers in urban contexts in the US and Colombia challenge these restrictive policies and practices, leading them to see their students, their communities, and themselves in new ways and imagine and enact more creative, culturally sustaining pedagogies and curriculum. Findings are based on analysis of more than forty artifacts produced by teacher learners at multiple points in their teacher education programs. Beyond sharing illustrative examples, the presentation invites language teacher educators to consider how our programs foster/inhibit creativity in teacher development. Critical pedagogies, community-based literacies and social justice teacher education inform this approach to second language teacher education (SLTE).