Okay. I, uh, graduated from, um, Roosevelt High School. It’s the local high school here. I, um, went into a vocational college and um earned a associate’s degree, and I married at age 23. I have 3 children, all who uh only speak English. And I worked for about 10 years. I was in the workforce for about 10 years and then decided that I wanted to go back to school and – to become a teacher. And the history of my family, um my mother was born in Texas – born and raised in Texas. Um she met my father, he was from Mexico. And traveled a lot following the labor – uh the labor crop harvesting and what have you. I um was born here in Fresno and was raised here in Fresno, and uh I went with my family to the fields up until about 14, and that was our way of earning our uh school clothes – uh money for school clothes, and – and then my sister uh got me into where she worked just as a part-time job at 14, so I kind of worked under the table, and uh – just so that she could get me out of the – out of the fields and also so that I could help my mom by buying my own necessities. And so I worked there until I was about 16 and then I worked for the um biggest and largest American corporation, McDonald’s, and uh I uh, uh worked there until I was 18 and then graduated and then went to college from there. And McDonald’s did want to hire me as a manager, but I knew that schooling came first and so I went on to a business college to – to get my AA degree.
My parents – uh, my mother – let’s see, my – my parents divorced at the age of 5. My – my father had a very difficult time assimilating to this country and uh became an alcoholic and abusive to my mother and – and then eventually to – that led to the kids. So my mother, after 20 years of marriage, said “That’s enough.” And um to me – I’m the baby of 6, and so all I saw was my mother making that stance and um becoming independent from my father. That has been instilled in me where I am very independent and learned that from my mother. My mother struggled very hard to learn English and um still is very uncomfortable with her language and – with the English language, and will fall back to Spanish mainly because that’s her – her native tongue. So uh she put her foot down and said, “No English in the home. Uh, you’re going to speak to me in Spanish,” and uh that was just, you know, second nature. I mean it was just like – you know, we didn’t break up our English or any – or Spanish with her. We um didn’t try to teach her English. She didn’t express a desire to learn, as far as I could tell. I mean I didn’t really – I – I guess I could have done more to try to teach her English, but um my mother was mainly uh concerned that I would – that I should become the traditional girl. Uh, I was always stepping outside of what she thought a female, Mexican uh women should be. You know, “Girls don’t sit like that. Girls don’t act like that. Girls don’t say things like that.” So that’s what I was up against all the time with her, and um my sister, on the other hand, who grew up very timid and as a – as a result of my dad’s abusiveness, um knew that I should have a voice. That I should have um my opinion and stand behind it, and she really challenged my mom to just kind of sit back and let me become my own person. So uh my mother was fine, you know, let her graduate and get a good job. That was what her desire was, graduating from high school and seeing me in a department store working. That was her dream for me. And uh so that was really it. No formal education, no um – no big – as far as I um considered big dreams for me, it was just “Graduate from high school, that’s all I want.” And that’s the way it was with all of our – all of us – all of her kids.
She sees an aura about me. You know, it’s – it’s more like – her statements have been “If you wanted to learn how to fly a plane, you would learn how to fly a plane,” because it was nothing ever that Ana couldn’t do if she – she could not do if she set her mind to it, so her – her – her – she realizes now her standing back and letting me become the person that I have become, has been a plus for me, and she sees that – how she could have hindered that, how she could have interfered with – with my voice had she tried to step in and make me the traditional Mexican woman subservient to her husband, and that kind of thing, although, some values still stay there. Family comes first, and respect and – to the elders, and you know, traditional values still come through, but she sees me more of a person who likes to help and could – would save the world if I could, you know.
My older siblings know better Spanish then I do. They have this correctness of – of speaking where I come in and, you know, chop it all up. And they are very literate and – in reading and writing in Spanish where mine – my literacy in terms of reading and writing didn’t come until later. I did not know how to read and write in Spanish until I was over the age of 18. That, you know, I finally was able to pick up a newspaper and read in Spanish or um – and even now I sit down and watch the – the Spanish shows with my mom and “What are they saying? You know, what are they talking about? You know, I missed it.” You know, and its because of that – that – the – the – their tongue is so mastered that I feel that mine isn’t in terms of my Spanish, and um – so that’s where, you know, I’m at in terms of bilingualism and I still struggle.
Yeah, and – and that goes back to my children because my – my kids – my oldest is 8 and I can kick myself for not instilling Spanish in the home for them. Although they can understand, they can hear my mother speaking to them in Spanish and they understand it, they – they don’t speak it, they don’t write it, and they don’t read it. My daughter tries to read it, but I – I’m – I’m hopeful that at one day by them listening to it they will be able to pick it up a lot easier. It won’t become as difficult as um – as it is just learning – being fully immersed in – in a lan – in a foreign language.
I see Mexican/American being dual. They uh Mex – being Mexican is my roots, my heritage, my – my link to my history, to the uh history of my people, uh, traditions, customs, uh. American – being an American to me is citizenship in a country that gives me opportunity for my future, uh, being uh able to uh use my heritage to advance me in the American society. To be able to reach out to others who – who come from uh, uh a different country and – and not to totally diminish who they are, but by building on that and becoming American as well. So I see – I see American – being Mexican/American as being 2 purposes for me. One, a link – Mexican being a link to my culture, and American as a citizenship as a um – where God put me uh on this earth.
When I came to Fresno Pacific I uh – I struggled at a – as a student. Um, it – it – Fresno Pacific in itself is – is already a different way of learning, a different philosophy of learning as opposed to a secular university. I’ve grown so much in terms of uh personally and spiritually. Uh and I probably would have seen that growth going uh to a secular university, but not – I didn’t feel that they were connecting my worlds. And being a spiritual person, being a um professional being, a um – a mother, uh, uh, a daughter, all my worlds seemed to link together coming to Fresno Pacific. Where I struggled at is the – the affirmation of being a writer. I didn’t see myself as a good writer because I felt I struggled so much, yet when I turned in a paper I’d get, you know, excellent marks on it from my professor and I was like, “Wow, how did I do it? What did I do that allowed me to get, you know, the grade that I did? What strategy did I use?” And I couldn’t pin point. I couldn’t define it for even myself. What Learning Edge has done is that it’s opened – it’s connected – it has connected what I felt I knew with – by defining it. Defining that with – because I – I even mentioned this in my classroom, was that before – I knew that reading was doing something to me. I knew that reading more the newspaper, the books that I was reading, the tons of books that I was reading in my classes, um al this reading was connecting me and it was making me a better writer, but I didn’t see – see it. And my husband even struggles with writing and he’s um also going back to school to earn his diploma and he – he told me “I will never be a good writer,” and its like – and I told him, “Read more. Read more and you’ll get the hand of it. Look at it – look at it from the way its being written,” and that’s the way I learned um at my job. They – I remember as part of my evaluation that I needed to improve on oral and written communication. That was listed in my – in my – in my goals, and I thought “Well, I know how to speak. I know how to write. I know how to write correspondence. I went to a business college,” but I didn’t quite understand exactly what they were trying to tell me, and so I started noticing my – my correspondence to a professor’s correspondence. I – I worked at a graduate institution. So I would see correspondence coming from a PhD, from a, you know, an advanced secretary and I would compare and I thought “Oh, okay. I want to – I want to – how do I get from here to there?” So I started looking at the way they write in emails. How they write the words that they use. And before you knew it, I was able to communicate that through my correspondence and improve in my writing. So I knew that reading had a connection. Learning Edge just helped me to define the transaction that takes place between a reader and a writer, and it’s just been so enlightening that um I wish I would have known this information before when I was in high school. I probably wouldn’t have had gone so far without it. I probably would have pinpointed what I wanted to do with my life and go to school, and uh I probably would have opened up more doors a lot sooner. Um, you know, I’m not – I’m not sad that it happened the way that it did, but you know, it would have been a lot more better for me. (Interruption) Oh, yes. Yes, it would have benefited.
I’m going to describe a book that uh was read in Learning Edge and it was about Booker T. Washington who um – who had the desire of learning and – and reading and writing, and in – in a passage he says that he feels that he’s been saved, that he’s been baptized, and that’s how I feel. Like I feel like, you know, just being fine tuned and – and – and coming to a new sense of awareness, to truth. To, you know, it just opened up “Oh, okay. Now I see how this all works together.” And – and that’s how I feel. I feel baptized. I feel saved. I feel like a – I feel like a um – I feel the confidence in my writing, in my reading, that – that confidence that I – I once lacked, and – and it’s almost like, you know, being baptized. You know, you’re just getting that one – that one confidence that you are God’s child and no matter what you do you’ll be loved. That kind of thing, and that’s – that’s how I feel. That no matter which way I go in reading and writing, uh with these tools, with the tools that I’ve learned in Learning Edge, I will become a better learner and I will become a better teacher.
I feel the – the connection to – from text to world, from text to text, from um text to um text. That when you connect with other – with your experiences and you – and you have the ability to think about “Where have you seen this kind of writing before? Where have you experienced um this kind of um, um experience that maybe the character is – is portraying in a book?” Linking your experience to uh – or um the connection – I’m sorry – the connection to – to text, to world, to bringing your experiences into that connection just helps a lot more in terms of trying to understand um what you’re reading, what you’re going to write about. And – and I think that’s so important because I see my kindergartners. You know, I – I – I am a bilingual – bilingual aide for kindergartners, and the text that is used I remember reading to um, um the kids and we talked about (speaks Spanish) and I was like “Wow, you know, (speaks Spanish) that’s a cultural thing,” and it almost felt a little weird to me that I was actually talking to them about a (speaks Spanish). A (speaks Spanish) is a uh – is a medicine doctor in a culture – in a – like a shaman, or um different cultures may have their – their beliefs in how to cure sicknesses, and – but each of them knew what a (speaks Spanish) and – and I thought, “Wow, that is so neat that this book was able to link their culture in with um – with whatever the tale was telling,” and that I feel is really important because I feel like with the books that I had when I was young, “See Jane Run. See Dick Run. See Spot Run,” they didn’t connect with me and uh I feel that the books that are coming out that speak about culture and connection and leaving room for different perspectives help in – in the learning process.
I had to – when I entered kindergarten – um, I would like teachers to know that when I entered kindergarten my world stopped at that door and I entered a – a new door of a different world. My – I would leave that world when the bell rang at 2 o’clock and would go into a different world. Never were those worlds connected. Never were those worlds become one. I – as a – as a bicultural student I struggled to accept the things that were happening in my home. You know, being the only child with – with – feeling that I was the only child that – who’s mother only spoke Spanish and that connect – they – my school and my home world were never connected through a teacher, through – through a um person who knew my mom’s language. Um my mom never knew how well I was doing in school um from a teacher’s perspective. They – all my teacher could ever say was “She talks too much,” and yes, I did talk a lot, but where was my potential going? Where could my voice take me? And – but my mom – and – but my teachers never um had anybody there to interpret to my mom what I was doing, how I was doing, um and I feel that that’s important to be able to link those worlds together as one. If not through language then how? You know, how are you going to uh link um a Mexican world with an American world? How are you going to do that? And um – and I – I – I still struggle with that being a bicultural student. Being a teacher. How am I going to reach uh, uh, a group of um immigrant students that um speak only Spanish? How am I going to connect them to this American world? Even I as an adult now have a hard time connecting to what I actually – uh who I actually am as a result of not being able to connect those 2 worlds, so even I come out saying, “Well, you know…” – and a perfect example of this was that um I – with my kindergarten kids I thought, “God, do these parents not care? Do they not care that these kids are not learning their colors, that they’re not, you know – that they’re not learning their numbers. Don’t they know that they could just point to the sky and tell them that the sky is blue? Don’t they know that? Aren’t they – don’t they care?” And it wasn’t until I had experience with the parents that I realized, “Oh, my gosh, they’re just surviving.” School to them is not the main – uh, the main thing in their head. They’re – they’re – they’re goal is to survive in this country. They’re goal is to put food on the table. They’re goal is to clothe their kids. “Education. Well that will come.” And – and it’s not a sense of them not caring. It’s – it’s more, you know, a sense of survival, that they’re trying to survive in this country with many odds against them, many obstacles in their way, and one of them being language. And uh so I as a teacher know that I must be able to connect their world and somehow interrelate it with American society, and without diminishing who they are and developing them into who they can become.
Right, right. It – and I didn’t have – I didn’t really carve that out until this past year. I didn’t really come to the real – realization that “Oh, my gosh…” – I was actually embarrassed because my mom didn’t know Spanish. I was (Interruption) they didn’t know English. (Interruption) I was actually embarrassed that my mom didn’t know English. I was embarrassed to speak Spanish. I learned to speak English so well that my – my friends around me uh would ask, “Oh, you know Spanish?” “Well, yeah, I know Spanish.” Well, they didn’t know because I didn’t speak it around them, and my friends didn’t consist of – they were second generation, third generation um, um Mexican and so their parents were speaking English at home and I felt disadvantaged at that. But through this past year I’ve carved out that it’s actually an advantage that I had and never even realized it. Because my world stopped at that door, I didn’t realize what advantages I came in through that door with.
Well, there is an advantage – I’m sorry – there is an advantage to knowing 2 or 3 languages. Even I as an adult being in a very diverse area of California, um I want to even pick up a third language. Uh, I want to – those are challenges that I would like to go for one day, being trilingual. Uh, oh I don’t know if my tongue can do it, but um I – I don’t believe that keeping a student’s first language uh – um – keeping it down is a good thing. Uh, I think uh – I think very – small kids can learn uh 2 languages. I remember a substitute teacher uh came in and was with our kindergarten class and my kindergarten kids – they know nothing but Spanish, and a few English. They’re picking it up, and um – and the one thing – she says, “I am so concerned that they will not learn English,” and – and I could tell by her age that she was a teacher from, you know, very long experience, and – and – and I thought to myself, “Oh, my gosh they’re still…” – it hit me – the realization hit me at that point that there’s still teachers out there that think that coming in with – with – with only knowing Spanish is a disadvantage, and I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that. I believe that it’s – it’s a great advantage if they can come in and – and learn English and – and um keep both languages.