Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 6.37.25 AM Gladys Marquez, NEA

As a child, I remember my grandfather telling us stories of how we came to live in this great

nation. My grandfather was fortunate to secure a position as a railroad worker on the Rock Island

in the 1950’s. He worked as a migrant worker for 10 years before he was able to bring the entire

family from, Zacatecas, Mexico in the 1960’s. My mother, then 13, explained how she struggled

to understand the new language and culture. She talked about “not fitting in” and” feeling

awkward and out of place.” She spoke about teachers not taking the time to teach her the

language and her own feelings of inadequacy. She, like thousands of other immigrant students,

decided to opt out of school and into the labor force taking a minimum wage factory job at the

local steel mill, a trend I still see today. These discussions would fill me with sadness. How

could my mother feel out of place? How could someone not appreciate her talent and her desire

to learn? Most importantly, what was so wrong with our educational system that it would allow

thousands of immigrant students to fall through the cracks? These questions would become my

life’s passion. Today I look for the answer to these questions in my students. I work to help

motivate, educate, and develop the skills and self-discipline necessary to fight for their futures.

Cultural appreciation is the driving force behind these efforts. They know that if they believe in

themselves, their heritage, and who they are, they can achieve that which they aspire to become.

My students know that, for me, college is not an unattainable dream but an expectation to be

achieved. I love what I do and work to make a difference in the life of every child who steps foot

in my classroom. I change the world one child at a time. I am a teacher.

Together we can make a difference!


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