Becoming a Teacher

“I did not want to be used as the token Latin.”

Edited by Nick Ladeau.

Transcript for Becoming a Teacher

In the fall of 1960, I went to IU and studied education. And I did some work at Indiana Northwest. And then I wound up at Bloomington. I got my degree in Education in 1966. I worked in the summers at Inland Steel company. IU was completely different than anything I had ever experienced. There was very little discrimination, except that the locals in Bloomington did not like people from Northwest Indiana. They just called us the region rats, and we’d call them the stone cutters. And, you know, they didn’t mind taking your money. They just didn’t want you to be there, you know, so you learn to coexist.

I got out of IU, I got a teaching assignment at Riley school in Gary, teaching sixth grade. Dr. Gilbert, who was the principal at Froebel school my first-grade year, he was superintendent of schools by now. And he called me and said, “I’m changing your assignment because you’re the only Latino I have, and I’m sending you to Brunswick School,” which is on the West Side. Primarily it was going from white to Latino to black. Okay, so he changed my assignment. So I reported to Brunswick school, I worked there two years. In the meantime, Dr. Gilbert was no longer the superintendent. And the principal at Riley school called me back and said, “I want you back here.” So I went to work, and I did thirteen years at Riley. It wasn’t really real bad. I did feel that I did not want to be used as the token Latin.

In the meantime, in 1972 and ’73, Ivy Tech offered me a position to head their CEP program, Concentrated Employment Program, which was teaching people that didn’t have high school diplomas, teaching them to get their high school diplomas, and also teaching them how to type and take shorthand so that they could prepare for a life in business. And even though I was working for Ivy Tech, the city of Gary still carried me as a teacher at Riley school, one Latino in Glen Park. I didn’t particularly care for that, but then after I finished at Ivy Tech, I went back to Riley. The school city of Gary sent me on a recruiting trip to New Mexico to recruit Spanish speakers because they were hurting for Spanish speakers and the Latin population was growing. And so that, you know, I didn’t mind doing that.

I, you know, they gave me all kinds of opportunities in the Gary system. I got to be the director, not director, but the field person for the adult education program in the evenings. I got to work with the Neighborhood Youth Corps in the summers. So, you know, I have nothing bad to say about the Gary school system. They treated me pretty well, you know, all things considered, because, you know, whether they did that because I was Latino, I don’t know.

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