What makes a man who had been selling insurance for almost twenty years shift to wanting to become a teacher? It is moving in a new life direction in a new land where the possibility of change is available; it is moving from advocating as an unique member and leader of a Hispanic civil rights group for education reform/change/opportunity for all to move onto the front lines and be the change; and it is finding out that you have an untapped ability at an age when most people are starting to think about winding down a successful career.
I moved out to California back in 2013, just over three years after the unexpected passing of my wife. After settling the affairs associated with that milestone event, I was looking to start a new life but only partially succeeded. I had a new address but was still doing the same thing for a job: selling insurance. The next year and a half was rough. Jobs with local agents which didn’t last long or were temporary gigs. It was when I was at my lowest point in early 2015 that I found my new life direction. I saw an ad that a local school district was looking for substitute Instructional Assistants. I had a Bachelors I hadn’t done anything with so I took a chance and applied. I got one of the positions. I also discovered almost from the first day of going into the schools that I had found not only a steady job but a job that I felt a sense of accomplishment from and one which ignited a passion in me. I realized quickly that in the words of Anthony Mullen, the 2009 Teacher of the Year Award recipient, “it ignited a flame too bright to be ignored by students.” (CCSSO, 2015) I felt moved to want to take the next step and not just be an IA who came in for a day or two or even one who was assisting for a full year, I wanted to revisit an old dream, long dormant, to become a teacher.
I also realized that like 2002 recipient, Chauncy Veatch, I could use my position as a teacher to help Hispanic youth make strides in school and further their educational achievement. This had been a goal of mine during the years I was an active member and Council President of LULAC(League of United Latin American Citizens). Like Mr. Veatch, I am a very Caucasian male who had an interest in the Hispanic community. My interest coming from my marriage to a first generation Mexican-American woman who I had grown up with and whom I lost much too soon. I had witnessed first hand the desire of Hispanic parents to see their children get a good education and live the American Dream. In Mr. Veatch’s words, “To dream is to be filled with hope.” (CCSSO…) I realized that instead of merely advocating for the needed changes and creation of opportunity, I could be one of the creators of that change by becoming a teacher. I wanted to, in the words of 2014 Teacher of the Year Award recipient, Sean McComb, “challenge them and support them[students], staying attuned to who they are, where they are in their lives, and what each of them needs to succeed.”(CCSSO…)
I realized at the age of fifty-one that I had something to offer, a talent, a passion, a gift from God which I had denied(?), ignored(?) for a large part of my life because I had found a comfortable and safe niche in insurance sales early in my professional life. I finally found the circumstances to release this ability which I had hid partially under a basket to keep the world and myself from seeing it.