High school teacher finds speaking Spanish an asset near the US-Mexico border

This high school teacher and chair of the science department shares how being bilingual has equipped her to serve Hispanic students in her school.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
High School science teacher and chair of Science Department. I have been doing this for seven years.

Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
A typical work day for a teacher includes getting to work early, standing on your feet for many hours, and staying at work late to grade papers, tutor students, prepare lesson plans, or take work home with you.

What is your ethnicity? How has it hurt or helped you?
I am Hispanic with a Mexican-American nationality. Since I work along the US-Mexico border, being Mexican and bilingual has helped me in dealing with both the parents and the students that have come into this country recently.

If you’ve experienced discrimination, in what ways have you responded and what response worked best?
I have never experienced discrimination, thank God.

What languages do you speak? How has speaking another language helped you?
I speak Spanish. I work in a private school along the US-Mexico border. Because of the violence in Mexico, we have seen an increase in the number of students from Mexico. Being able to speak Spanish has been beneficial specifically in dealing with the parents of the students that come from Mexico.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
Teaching is not the most admired job. When you tell someone that you are a high school teacher, you will not be regarded in the same way as a doctor or lawyer would be. However, teaching is a very rewarding career; as a high school teacher, you get to mold the lives of your students each day. Your fingerprint will forever be on each of your student’s lives.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
Most people have a misconception of what it is like to be a teacher. They think that we teachers have the dream schedule because we get off of work early and have all summer for vacation. Don’t get me wrong, having the summer off is glorious, but you never get off work early during the school year. Teaching is one of those few professions where it is necessary to bring your work home, and, boy, will you! There are lesson plans to prepare, papers to grade, and emails to write to parents (that is if you want some of the challenging students to succeed).

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I have always wanted to teach sometime during my life, so when I was offered a teaching position upon graduating from college, I agreed to it. Seven years later, I would do it all over again!

On a good day, when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?
I teach science and math, both of which are notorious for being difficult subjects. When I am teaching a particularly complex lesson and I get an “Aha!” moment from my students, the feeling is amazing. At this moment, your world feels complete.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
It is frustrating when parents do not want to make their children accountable for their actions and place the blame solely on the teacher even though that teacher has given the student multiple chances and has contacted the parents repeatedly. The only way to deal with this is to assure yourself that you have done your best.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
It depends on the state where you work, and teachers are never paid enough for what they do.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
I am so proud of the fact that I impact lives on a daily basis and mold our future generations. How many people can boast this fact? No matter the challenges, at the end of the day I am proud to be a high school teacher.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
Be ready for the most challenging yet rewarding career!

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
Almost every national holiday, two weeks for Christmas, one week for spring break, two days for Easter, and two months for the summer. This time is enough to reflect on what you are doing as a teacher and motivate you to continue inspiring lives.

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  • Everything in this essay is true. In order to be a teacher you truly have to be passionate. Not everyone can be a teacher, it takes patience, love, and dedication. May not be the best paying career, but its the most rewarding. Remember everyone has been impacted by a teacher.

  • Although I am still a young student and I interact with my teachers regularly, I still deeply appreciate all the work they do. I someday hope to become a teacher and knowing that they put in so much time and effort into their students’ education makes me want to pursue such an honorable carreer even more. I have had plenty of teachers throughout my scholastic career that have poured so much effort into seeing their students succeed. Even the teachers that I have had that don’t realize what an impact they had on me! I sometimes wish I could send them a thank you card to express how much influence they have had into making me the person I am and creating such an intense interest in learning within me.

  • This is a great essay. Teachers are often underappreciated, but they can truly make a huge difference in the lives of their students. One of those “aha” moments can inspire a student to pursue their passions or make a difference. Thank you, teachers!

  • In my young teaching career, being a Music Education major, and being a student all of my life, I can attest to the fact that teachers are oftentimes looked down upon by other professionals. Even though I am double-majoring with another degree in Music Performance, I am still made to feel inferior by other music students who plan on joining professional performing ensembles for a living. My answer to their criticism is, “Well, who taught you how to be a musician?”.

    The truth is, and it seems like not enough people realize this, that we have retained most of our knowledge from other people and therefore, we are all teachers. Even if others refuse to see this, I am never discouraged by the harsh words of others when it comes to being an educator. This is simply because I know that as a teacher, I hold the power to make others powerful; to light a spark in the minds of others and to help them pursue their dreams. I am proud to say that I could not see myself putting so much of my energy into any profession other than teaching.

  • Science is a huge favorite subject of mine. I love how this teacher brought diversity and reached out to the students. I connect to this because I had to learn spanish in high school and also have a great love for science and all the studies behind it. Studying science will bring me to where I want to be one day in my career(mentioned on the home page). Looking forward to what life brings me! Great inspirational story!

  • Teaching as a job is undermined, low payed, and has minimal vacation. It does not sound like the best job, but this teacher proves to us it’s the best job in the world! Teaching should be greatly appreciated because if it weren’t for these hardworking individuals, where would we be at today? This science teacher takes advantage in making a difference in the lives of her students! And with an advantage of speaking a second language, she is able to help more of her students understand and learn their academics. Whether it’s helping them understand a subject or impacting their decisions for the future, this teacher shows great passion and dedication to her job!

    As an amateur photographer/artist/designer, it is really stressful knowing whether you will satisfy your customers with what they want. Just like the science teacher, your “world feels complete” when you know you have made your costumers content with your product by having them gasp as their reaction! This hobby of mine is very self rewarding after all the hard work and investment I put into it and I have a passion for it that keeps me going to better myself and satisfy more people to come!

  • I am about to start the CAL Teach minor/ BA in Mathematics degree at UC Berkeley. I am both excited and nervous about doing the best that I can. I chose to read this article because it reflected my possible career path. I have had the opportunity to tutor mathematics and the “Aha” moment with my students does make the hours of tutoring worth any frustrations that may come along the way.

    Because I live in California, I do believe I will need to become proficient in Spanish. Currently I speak English and Polish; although, I have never tutored in Polish before. But coming from a background of someone who has lived in America both as undocumented citizen and part of the LGBTQ community, I feel I can bring a supportive environment to my classroom. I can be the ally that an outcast student can turn to when much of the school environment either does not care about their struggles or is oblivious to their fears and needs.

  • I admire the hard work that this high school teacher has done in her career to motivate and teach her students to be the best they can be.

    Many of my teachers have definitely left a fingerprint in my life, which I will forever be thank full.

    I too am a bilingual speaker and it feels so great to be able to communicate with others as well as teach others. I remember how I would help the kids in my barrio do their homework because I was the only one who knew how to translate.

    This teacher is an exemplar role model and someone who will continue to enrich the leaders of the future.

  • Teachers help the world go round. If there were none the majority of the upcoming youths would be mentally stagnant, there would be no progress. I agree with you completely when you say that teachers are often overlooked and not a very admired job, which really baffles me. My girlfriends mother and father are both teachers,the pay isn’t that great but they are incredibly happy doing it. It is a very rewarding job that is in high demand.

  • I agree completely. I am coming from a Childhood Education background and I learned that you need passion in teaching and love what you do on a daily basis. Teaching is not a simple job but a growing career. When you are involved in this type of profession you can’t think about the money. It is true! Teachers aren’t paid enough. However, what is present is the sincerity and the nurturing quality us educators provide to the children of tomorrow. That’s what counts. I believe it is a challenge working with parents and helping students succeed in the community. When I used to student taught at the NYC public schools it was hurtful to see that there were parents out who seem to not care for their children’s education. To be honest, there is not a lot of support for teachers when it comes to designing educational programs, parent involvement, school involvement or even universally designed special education workshops. But at the end of the day the challenges can all be erased when we see a student smile for getting a math problem or being able to read a whole book by themselves. I do hope that in the near future teaches would receive more educational rights and funding to have the opportunity to create their classroom a safe-haven environment for the students of tomorrow.

  • Readers please excuse the following lengthy, in-depth reflection. I can relate to this inspirational, motivating story and must respond to it here with my own story for a scholarship I am applying to.
    I absolutely appreciate this article and can fully relate. I grew up in an under privileged neighborhood as an at-risk youth. Contrarily I was in an accelerated track since elementary school but was somehow dropped from this track when entering middle school in 7th grade( I believe it was because of my last name). I was then set on a track of under-achieving and buying into the stereotypes. I figured that if I could not get into college through a football scholarship, then I had no other route and that I didn’t belong, so why try? this lead to hood life and the assumption that I could only obtain “nice things” in life through “hustling” and step on the next person , as we tend to do in these neighborhoods, because we feel as though we are fighting viciously over the same scarce resources(if any) to secure a better life for our families.
    This mentality carries in to adult hood. As I thought I was maturing, my outlook on the world was that it was “grown up” or “what responsible, ambitious, motivated adults do” to strive for monetary gain through whatever job one might have. I found that even the kids who made it to college from my neighborhoods felt the same. these kids would choose majors in college, not for self-fullfilling or true passionate reasons, but for what major would lead them into a career field quickest while making the most amount of money possible. Within a year of barely graduating from high school with a 1.3 gpa, I entered the military. Mind you that this was just after 9/11 had occured and, like most of America, I fell for the trap set. I felt a sense of duty to “defend” this nation, and combat the “evil” in the Middle East(needless to say I have a totally different outlook now after much awakening to our gov’t politics and foreign policies, etc). I also joined to escape my poor socioeconimic status. I enjoyed moving up the ranks over the next six years, earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, while having a family and through MANY sacrifices. The money was very good and my family was taken care of. Despite this fact, I wanted to return home and help my community by showing them they could do the same; make money through sacrifice. After a short year-long stint at a local police department, I had another epiphany: sacrificing so much just to make earn a comfortable living while watching most of my community still struggle while being too busy to reach out, being too busy to help educate/raise my son with a humanitarian, social justice awareness(leaving it up to a faulty public school), and having to spend more time at work than with the family was not worth the “good” money.

    Since then, my wife and I have both managed to stick to a rigorous and tedious plan of sacrifices in order to budget our living expenses through scholarships, grants, and my academic GI Bill benefits. We have excelled in college with the goal of becoming a public school teacher, and an academic/personal counselor. My wife has graduated from UC Berkeley as a Social Welfare major and Education Minor. She is currently in a Master’s program for Elementary Education at Stanford University. Next FAll she plans to teach at a public school in South Hayward, CA where we are from. I graduated from community college as the Chancellor’s Trophy Award winner with a 4.0 transferable GPA, and with extensive community volunteering to include my passion; mentoring at-risk youth at Richmond high school. I chose to attend UC Berkeley where I am currently majoring in Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies with a Minor in Education. My goal is to become a guidance/academic counselor for at-risk youth in an under-resourced, minority community.

    I must say that the monetary sacrifice in order to pursue what we are really passionate about while being able to spend much more time as a family, raising our son with greater involvement with his education and leisure time, and being hand-on in community up-lift efforts is more than worth earning a lavish pay check, especially when you are truly invested and passionate about what you’re doing. Truly invested teachers produce children that invest in themselves and their education. Thank you for this article!

  • I am looking forward to being a teacher 10 years after I graduate from nursing school. I plan to work and get experienced and then teach what I have learned to as many students as possible. We are told teachers are needed and I hope to repay what my teachers have done for me. All the extra time and effort to help us learn and graduate is beyond expected. I want to help people succed to have a wonderful career one day.

  • I have been a substitute teacher for seven years now. While I never imagined teaching to be a career choice for myself, I have found it to be my passion through my experiences as a substitute. I have had the opportunity to experience grades pre-K through 12th and have discovered that I really enjoy middle school students. I have seen the positive impact that I can have on them even as a substitute and have decided to go back to college to get my secondary teaching degree. While I enjoy being a substitute, I have decided that I would love to have my own classroom and be there on a consistant basis to interact with the students.

  • Teaching is done because we love the children and what is being taught. Education allows people to have a better future and there is nothing more rewarding than to know that one day those children will become successful and they have their teachers to thank. Teachers spend countless hours working hard to make sure that the student can be taught to the best of their ability even if it means that they have to fund some activities out of their own pocket. Teachers are heroes and deserve to be recognized more.

  • Teachers are really not as appreciated or recognized as they should be. My mom is a first-grade teacher and I first-hand have seen all the work it takes. Not only has she successfully raised seven children, but she also has poured so much of her life and time into her first-grade students. Her life is one, entire full-time job being a mother and a teacher. The fact that my mom taught me Spanish and even had me follow a Spanish curriculum at home when I was younger is incredible and I am so thankful to her. My mom is my hero because she has not only loved and raised me and my siblings, but she also loves her students almost as much as if they were her own children. She is an inspiration to me. I believe teachers have the noblest of careers. Influencing young lives of the next generation is no small matter.

  • As a first generation Mexican American woman who studies to be a high school teacher, I find this interview inspiring. Like the interviewee, I am not going into this profession for the slarary, but rather, as s/he puts it, to, “mold the lives of your students…continue inspiring lives.” I believe cultural awareness and the ability to connect with Spanish speaking families will encourage students of every background to graduate high school and continue on to college. This interview reminds me of why I chose my major; I want to make a daily impact on future genrations.