Moving to another country and learning a second language was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I still remember it vividly, “Where are you from?” One of my teachers asked me on my first day in an American school. “San Luis Potosi” I answered. Mr. Collazo was my 8th grade teacher. He wasn’t really my teacher for any academic content, as I only saw him once per day during a study hall period. However, he spoke to me in a language I could understand, and I’m thankful he did because not many of my other teachers did.
Back in the late 90’s and into the 2000’s, ESL and bilingual programs were the norm in American schools. Many of my classmates and I were part of them. Our goal as students was not to be bilingual or to preserve our language or culture. The goal was to learn English as soon as we could so that we could “graduate” from the program and be “exited” from “those” classes. Sadly, socially and academically, the message was consistent. Our language; Spanish, did not hold the same value as the other language, English.
Although, I never really agreed with assimilation mindset, I’m thankful for my experiences as a second language learner and as an immigrant student. Over the years, I have learned so much about myself, my cultures, my languages and my traditions. It was those experiences in middle school and high school that groomed me to be the educator I am today. It was those experiences that motivated me to keep growing, to keep learning and being a positive influence to new educators, leaders and students.
As I reflect on my current reality, I am grateful for an added motivation to maintain a growth mindset and for continuing to make a difference in people’s lives. I do what I do because of my family; my wife and our two daughters. My daughter Gaby is the oldest. She is a kindergartener. Esme is 3 and she is the tornado of the house. My wife, Amanda, is a warrior and she helps all of us keep going, stay together and fight for what really matters. For our family, bilingualism, biculturalism and biliteracy matter a lot. It is a big value in our house and we work daily to model it and live it. In our house, being bilingual and bicultural is nonnegotiable.
Long are the days from when I was a middle school newcomer and my goal as a student was to learn English, graduate from the bilingual program and assimilate to a new culture. As a parent of emerging bilingual kids, I am happy for the direction the education world is going. I’m thankful to all the teachers and leaders who embrace the dual language movement. Yes, there is still lots of work that needs to get done to elevate the value of minority languages and cultures in our schools. However, I know that as Gaby and Esme go through their schooling, more and more educators will embrace the bilingual and bicultural way.
I am excited and looking forward to keep enjoying my daughters’ journey as they grow in a multilingual and multicultural world. As an educator, I will continue to advocate for the improvement of dual language programs across the nation. As a school leader, I will continue to support teachers and leaders in their school improvement efforts, especially those regarding dual language programming and high levels of learning for all. And, As a member of a global society, I will continue to represent my languages and culture proudly, waiving my flags and advocating for bilingualism and biculturalism with joy. ¡Si se Puede!