‘I come from very humble beginnings and because I had teachers who were passionate, I was able to go to college.’
“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and came here when I was 19 to study at Stony Brook University. I studied in the Department of Linguistics, and I was always interested in the science of language, how it sounds, I liked the research. I worked with immigrants at a Bay Shore non-for-profit, and I saw myself in them. I now teach English as a new language at the high school level. I always saw teaching as a very powerful thing to do, I appreciate the power it had to change my life.
“I come from very humble beginnings and because I had teachers who were passionate, I was able to go to college. My father is illiterate and had difficulties in life trying to get jobs and being able to communicate. That was inspiring because I know what it is not to be able to read and write and the limitations that brings. It was important to honor my father by becoming a teacher.
“I started Long Island Latino Teachers Association in 2006, after my experiences and other colleagues’ experiences of seeing students not being given services. I realized it wasn’t just one district, this was a systematic problem. We witnessed what we call discriminatory practices and we tried to address the situations through the system. For example, if students were put in a bilingual program, they were not given academic intervention services. In a single language program, if that child tested low, they’d be eligible for academic intervention services.
In 15 years, we’ve seen a decrease in the dropout rate among Latinos, which is core to our mission, and we’ve seen school districts in the last two years especially diversify their staff.
“There were no bilingual special-ed classes. Or the opposite, they’d classify them as disabled and they didn’t really have a disability. Because of a lack of experts in the field, there was a misidentification of students. Assemblyman Philip Ramos helped us help kids receive appropriate services and encouraged us to organize and give voice to the children who are English language learners.
“If we don’t take care of these practices that are hurting our students, then our students are not graduating, if we don’t advocate for diversity, we won’t have more diverse teachers. In 15 years, we’ve seen a decrease in the dropout rate among Latinos, which is core to our mission, and we’ve seen school districts in the last two years especially diversify their staff.”
Interviewed by Rachel O’Brien – Morano