Cristina Granados

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Cristina Granados describes immigrating to the United States through the Visiting International Faculty Program. She obtained a bachelors degree in Colombia where she also taught in a university level psychology department. Cristina describes the price of immigrating, but says that the support from the church community and her students has made her transition easier. Cristina began teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language and then moved to English as a Second Language. She describes how Sanford has changed over the course of her teaching career. She describes in-depth her relationship with her students and their families. She talks extensively about the issues her students face: rejection, discrimination, family re-unification, gang and drug violence. She also highlights her role as a teacher liaison with the Scholar’s Latino Initiative Program housed at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Felicia Arriaga: My name is Felicia and today is February 26th, 2014. I am here at Lee County High School in Sanford, North Carolina and I am here with a teacher at this school and her name is Cristina Granados. Is that correct?
Cristina Granados: Yes.
FA: Ok. And to begin with I just want to ask you--actually--hold on just a second, sorry. [Checking recorder] Ok. So the first question I want to--. So, I’m sitting here with Cristina Granados and she is an ESL teacher here at Lee County Middle--Lee County High School. So, I wanted to ask you first, when--. Where were you born and when did you actually come to this country?
CG: Ok. Hi, thank you for coming.
FA: [Laughter]
CG: Well, I was born in Manizales, this is a small city in the Southwest of my country, Colombia. But actually I grew up in Bogotá that is the capital city. And I went to this county ten years ago with an exchange teacher program.
FA: Oh, ok, very nice. And so how long were you here with that program?
CG: It was a three year program.
FA: Ok.
CG: Then I met my husband and I got married and I decided to stay here.
FA: Ok, great, great. And how often do you--? Do you get to go back to Colombia very often?
CG: Well actually my family--.Well I come from a family of immigrants, everybody immigrates, so my family lives in Europe, in Spain.
FA: Oh, ok, great.
CG: So, I visit more often Spain than Colombia.
FA: Oh ok.
CG: I think the last time I went to Colombia was back in 2008.
FA: Oh ok, so it’s been a while.
CG: So it was a long time ago but I try to visit my family in Spain every two years.
FA: Oh ok, great, great. Are you the only one of your siblings--? Do you have siblings and are you the only one in your family here?
CG: Yes, here in the United States I’m by myself. I mean I have like cousins; I have a couple of cousins that live in Florida and then my other cousin lives in Toronto, Canada. My nephew is moving to Houston, Texas, I think next month.
FA: Ok, so there will be a few other people here.
CG: Yes a few but actually I am by myself here or I feel like that.
FA: And how do you feel about that? How long--? You said you’ve been here for 10 years?
CG: Ten years.
FA: Ten years or so.
CG: Well it’s very hard. It’s a high price that you have to pay. If you--. When you immigrate, you don’t imagine how hard it is to live here. I mean you have a great life here, you have a better opportunity, you have many things you didn’t even imagine when you were in your country but the price that you have to pay is very high. I mean emotionally it hurts a lot to be by yourself when you need support or when you need somebody who loves you or who says ‘everything is going to be good.’ It’s very hard, it’s really hard.
FA: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And how--? Do you--? I guess do you talk to your family a lot then, since you said it’s pretty hard?
CG: Well, basically the communication is not very often with them. Well now we have these What’s App thing.
FA: Oh, ok. [Laughter]
CG: You know technology. But it’s kind of--. It’s--. I don’t know, you are so busy here that you cannot even call your family, you know, very often. I mean on the weekends we are crazy busy and I have to do many things. And this is one point and the other point is that the time is different.
FA: Ok, yeah.
CG: In Spain where my family lives is six hours ahead. So it’s kind of hard because when here it’s six o’clock, the time I’m available, there it is midnight. So yeah, the communication is not very often either.
FA: Ok. So when you came ten years ago, did you feel, besides your husband, was there--another--was there more of a community that you felt comfortable with?
CG: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I have found a lot of generous people here and many people in the church, I’m very involved with the community in the church. But actually, my best support emotionally here have been my students. They have been like my family always.
FA: Great, great.
CG: Actually, they are the reason I decided to stay. Because I just found out that they needed a lot of support. I was just dealing with all their horrible experiences when they came, and they passed through horrible situations, and usually they come here to meet some parents that they haven’t seen for years. And they are completely estranged from them. They are living with somebody who they don’t know and they have a lot of problems. Basically, my job here has been more giving them emotional support and showing them different ways to deal with all the things they have to deal with here. It’s not just the language barrier, it’s everything. It’s the societies, the communities, a complete new world without support because their families are always very busy. They come from families who work the whole day and sometimes even the nights so they are by themselves dealing with all of these emotional problems they have. Because you know I work with teenagers, they are passing through a difficult age and they have to deal with everything themselves with basically no support by the families so I try--in any way try--to supply this need.
FA: Do you get support from other teachers here at this school too or do you feel like you have to take a lot of that on by yourself?
CG: [Pause] Well actually there are some teachers that try to give them support but it’s kind of difficult because when you are working with a special program like ESL or students with special needs, all the responsibility is given to you. So they support them in some cases but mostly to solve their academic issues, learning problems or things like that. But when we are talking about their emotional situation--it’s just--there is almost nobody who can help them or try to support them. And the other point is that they are not able to express their emotions or their problems in English because they are not native English speakers. So, they are just a few people who are bilingual here and they are so busy just trying to, you know, do their jobs in different areas, that all the responsibility is given to me.
FA: Ok, and so are you the only ESL teacher here?
CG: Yes. I am the only one and we have--I have 187 students in the program and I am in charge of all of them.
FA: Wow. And how often--? Do you see all of them every day?
CG: Well [Laughter], no basically I have some groups that are in my class, ESL class but we are talking about twenty to thirty students. The other students are called SIOP classes, sheltered classes and they are only for Hispanic students and I have--am--co-teaching some of those classes and I am giving all the support I can to those students. This moment, this semester, we have eight classes, SIOP classes.
FA: And can you spell SIOP for me?
CG: It’s S-I-O-P. Those are sheltered instruction that means they have special methodologies to facilitate the learning of the content but at the same time facilitate the learning of the language. It’s both together at the same time. So in the co-teaching classes is what we do, I am the specialist in language so I work on all the vocabulary stuff, prior knowledge, building vocabulary, building background think, and the teacher works on the content area stuff. So we work together and we help them in this way.
FA: And these are all in English?
CG: Yeah, everything in English. I give them some support because--. I am trying--. We are trying to use the native language of the student, the Spanish, I mean as less as we can because we want them to be immersed in English context the whole time, it’s better for the learning process. However, I am giving them the support in their native language too, yeah, I use Spanish.
FA: How much interaction do you have with parents? I know you mentioned before that some of them may have little interaction with their parents but how often do you see them?
CG: Unfortunately, it is not very often. However, they are--. I am very involved with them because whenever they are on travels, they call me.
FA: Oh, ok.
CG: [Laughter] So as soon as there is a situation that they cannot handle or whenever they need information about an immunization, meetings or behavioral problems or anything, they call me. And actually, I’m just like the bridge between the teachers that don’t speak Spanish and the Hispanic students. So I handle all the phone calls for them and just try to be like the communication--the bridge--for the two cultures.
FA: Oh, ok. And do you see that the children sometimes are also bridging that? So you might be doing that between the different teachers but do the children have to do that as well?
CG: Yes, yes. They have to do that as well. Yeah, but actually--. Here at this school, we usually don’t do that because it is better to have an adult saying what’s going on. [Laughter] You know what I mean, they are always very smart so they can translate just the things that they think they have to. But in other situations in their lives, they are actually the support of their families. Actually, the families have high expectations for them. They say, ‘Well I brought you here and I want you to learn English and now it’s your responsibility to communicate, to be like my communication person.’ Okay. They have to deal with everything, paying bills, going to the doctor, translating for them in every situation outside the school and sometimes it is hard for them.
FA: I would imagine it would be. And so, do you--? Do y’all have parent nights where parents come in?
CG: Yes, we have a parent night every semester, Latino parent nights and we just have these meetings. They are not very--. Unfortunately the Latino community they don’t have this culture of just ‘let’s just go to school’ and communicate and see what’s going on with my child. They even, they have the opportunity to check the grades of their students online and they don’t use it. They just don’t know how to use it or they don’t have time. I think time is just a huge issue to deal with here, the parents just don’t have time for the kids and, but, how often do we meet? It’s once, exclusively with Latino parents it’s just once per semester, we call it Latino parent night and we have the open house but the participation of the Latino community in the open house is almost zero, out of twenty students you’ll have one or two parents in each group.
FA: Okay. And how big is the Latino student population?
CG: We are talking about thirty to thirty five percent Latino population.
FA: I want to get back to a little bit about your exchange program and how you ended up --. Did you actually come to Sanford or were you somewhere else?
CG: No, I actually came from Colombia to Wilson, North Carolina. I was teaching English--Spanish--first to the English speakers for three years and when I got married, my husband has a house here and when I came to Sanford I started working as an ESL teacher, teaching the Latino population.
FA: Okay and which one of those do you feel more comfortable with? What are the pros and cons [Laughter]?
CG: Absolutely, I love ESL [Laughter]. I love it. You can imagine the work, the huge amount of things that you have to do with those kids. You can imagine how hard is their situation and how they need support of somebody. They are eager to know that someone is interested in what is going on with them. They are looking for information about anything, they are lost when they first came here, everything is new for them, they are lost and they feel like if they are not going to make it. And they need somebody who says, ‘everybody can and hey, you are going to do it.’ And helping them, well you are like our mother and I say, ‘yes, of course I am.’
FA: [Laughter]
CG: Yeah, because most of my students have their mother in Mexico or in another country and their parent, the father, who is the person who usually immigrates, just, you know they have to save money to bring them here. But, usually they have a new family here and so those kids are the new person in that family. So they are not welcome all the time and we have to deal with this every day and that’s the reason because I love my job. Because what I’m doing is not just trying to teach them English but trying to support them, trying to just open a new life for them and try to teach them it’s not as terrible as it looks and they are going to do it if they put all the effort.
FA: That’s great, that’s great. It sounds like you do a lot. [Laughter]
CG: Yes, I am doing a lot.
FA: How do you--. I guess, how are you able to do all those extra things, I’m just trying think about what your time in the classroom looks like? Is it spent a lot on instruction or do you find that you have to really take care of a lot of both the instruction of the ESL classes and the SIOP classes or is it that your students are coming after school. How much interaction, I guess, do you have with them?
CG: Actually, during my planning period which is my third block. I have a lot of students here. They have different times for their lunch; actually we have three lunches here. And during my planning they are coming all the time, even during their regular classes they ask for permission and teachers know and they say, ‘if it’s to Ms. Granados, you can go.’ Because they know there is something going on and that I am trying to help them with a situation that most of the time is kind of hard for them to deal with. During my planning time, during lunch time, after school, and even during the weekends sometimes. Yeah, if they have--. They love when they invite you to their parties, like fifteen birthday parties [laughter] and I say ‘yes.’ [Points at file cabinet full of mementos, picture is included]
FA: I was wondering what all those were when I walked in.
CG: All of those are just like, you know, the little souvenirs that they give you. And when my students have won soccer [Pause] championships, they bring me the trophies.
FA: That’s great.
CG: And they are my former students.
CG: So the interactions continue. We are like a family. Actually with experience, you know, you learn how to deal with your time. This is the point here is to learn to distribute your time in the way that you can deal with everything that you have to but mainly pay attention to the emotional part of the student, pay attention to the person and not just like a student because they really, really need a lot of attention.
FA: I’m interested in how do you--? How do you actually counsel them or how do you go about helping them express their emotions and really talking about that? And do you feel your own experience as an immigrant helps with that?
CG: I have been trying to be a role model for them and my first point here is to respect them a lot. As far as I respect them, if I show them respect, they respect me so you build a, you know, a very good relationship. So you respect me, I respect you. And I have examples for them, actually [turns towards the file cabinet] this little cup from Puerto Rico, you see the Puerto Rico flag? He was an ESL student and now he is in Japan. He’s in the American Air Force, I’m so proud of him, he’s a pilot. And I said ok, ‘if my student, who was an immigrant like you when he came here from Puerto Rico, he didn’t know any English, like you. He was as scared as you. And now he’s in Japan, he’s in the American Air Force.’ I give them examples of students that were successful and everything, I just invite the student and I say, ‘ok, just tell your story to those kids. And I ask them how did you feel.’ And they did a great job and said, ‘Well, I was really scared, I was crying, I was--. I had this and this and this problem. But I did it, I overcame all the obstacles. I had to have determination and work hard and I had to believe in myself.’ Because just building self-esteem is a very hard thing but once they got it, they do a great job. Self-esteem is the point here too.
FA: That’s great. [Pause] How do you--? I know that you said you’ve been here for almost 13--10--years and you said you visit your family a lot in Spain but do you feel like this has become your home?
CG: Well in some way yeah. I love this country; this country gave me a lot of things. This country gave me a lot of things that I didn’t have in my life, like security, a safe place to live. I think as immigrants or about my personal experience as an immigrant, what I was looking for was not money or you know, like economic position. I was looking for safety because I come from a country that is very violent so you never know what could happen there. And that’s the reason why we all immigrated, my whole family. They went to Spain and my sister went to France and I came here. And, yes, actually I don’t know if this is a place I can call home, I think it is, I feel like an adopted child. [Laughter] I don’t think the United States thinks I’m her daughter, I’m her adopted daughter and I’m trying to be a good girl here. And one day they are going to, ‘ok, I love this adopted child as if she were mine.’ But it’s kind of [Pause] hard to leave your country because you really love your country but when there are not conditions to live your life there and there is another country that give you those--these--opportunities you just don’t think about it. I am very, very grateful with this country. I think it’s a wonderful place to live.
FA: Great, great. How do your students feel about it? And how do they feel about their move? And you talked a little bit about some of their challenges with moving, particularly if their family has already been here for a while, so how do you--? Are they--? Do they feel happy here or are most--some--of them trying to figure it out?
CG: Well, they, they really don’t like it. When I ask them, “do you like the country, are you excited about being here?’ They say, ‘absolutely not.’ They feel rejected, they feel discriminated. They feel--.
FA: In what ways?
CG: In many ways. They think people don’t like them because they don’t speak English. They think people don’t like them because they are Brown and many people call them Wetbacks or beaners or other things like that. And they think they are like in a [Pause] they are in a different world, they think that people just take them away put them in a different place where they are together but no one else is there, like in a ghetto. And it’s in the beginning when they first come in, they feel all of this rejection and I don’t think it’s rejection, it’s lack of communication. When they cannot communicate, they feel that nobody likes them but it’s not real, it’s just the feeling that they have because they don’t have cannot establish any communication with nobody here. And then when they have their family, I mean my former students, they feel that this country is their country. They have their children, they get married, they go to college and then they feel they are welcome here and then they understand that this is a process that they have to pass through. But at the beginning it is very hard, they just don’t like it. They say--. They say, ‘this is boring,’ they just don’t like us, we don’t like them. This is violent, they think they are not going to make it, they think it’s not fair, the system is not fair with them is the reason. Because they feel they are discriminated and they say, ‘well why do we have to pass through all of this if we don’t speak English and why don’t we have like special grading and why do have to do exactly like the other students have to do?’ And I say, ‘well that’s the way it is. We came to a different country and they have their country and they have their rules, we have to follow the rules.” But for a teenager it’s very hard to get that. They usually don’t like it at all.
FA: So do you think they feel that way in the schools or also in the community? And in their homes?
CG: I think in the schools and in the community and in their house too. Because as I told you; they come to a new home where the parents, mom or dad, has another family. So they are like intruders here, they have their children here and the children speak English and the one that just came doesn’t do it so it’s kind of hard for them. Usually they have a really difficult relationship with the stepmothers or stepfathers and you have these [Pause] problems, and they are all the time, you have to deal a lot with the problems and try to just help the students to adapt to the new situation and also helping the parents because it’s hard for the parents too. It’s difficult for them to deal with a teenager that has been growing with the grandparents and doing whatever they want in their country and then they come here and they have rules here, you cannot do whatever you want here. And this is something they don’t like it.
FA: And you mentioned something about some of your students saying it was violent. Can you explain a little bit about what you meant?
CG: Well, yes. [Pause] Usually they have to deal with drugs, drug dealers and gangs. And its bullying, it’s also usual. And so it’s really hard for them to deal with that. Usually they have to just deal with all of this stuff from the beginning when they came because the new students are the ones that are more vulnerable.
FA: Are there programs in the school that they are actively trying to counter some of those things? So like an anti-bullying campaigns or something?
CG: Not really, no. I was trying to do something. Actually, in my classes I tried to do--. I was--. I just remembered that I was working in a program, it was called TOP, T-O-P and in this program I was working on that. I usually talked to them about drugs, and gangs, and STDs, and pregnancy and all of these things. Unfortunately they did not give me more of the support to do that. It was with the Coalition of Families of Lee County, but they say, ‘No you cannot do it anymore, you have to have a special instruction.’ It’s a pity because we were talking about many things with that and I think it was very useful for the students. It’s a pity they don’t have it anymore.
FA: So they don’t have the program at all or they were just saying that you had to be certified to do it?
CG: Yeah, yeah. They said I have to have a special training and it was very expensive for them to pay for it and they said it was like $800. I was doing it for free, I wasn’t charging. I was just doing it by myself and doing the program for free. Yeah, I didn’t get paid for that. And here in the school, it’s not like any specific campaigns, or things like advertisements or things like that against these kinds of things because I think in high school they consider that those issues are not very common in the school. You know what I mean? They consider it is a middle school or elementary school program but I don’t think it’s very true.
FA: So then how are they dealing with some of those issues?
CG: They have to you know just listen and see and keep your mouth shut. It’s very difficult to, you know, help them in a very direct way. You know what I mean. I am a teacher here and all that I can do is to listen and when there is something really hard, I have to, my duty is to just go ahead and talk about that. But it’s hard to do it when you don’t have the time to maybe collect proof and I don’t have the time to do that. But actually I have seen my students scared and they have been beaten in the classroom or something and they don’t say a word. But then they say, ‘Ms. I will tell you what happened but please don’t say.’ Because it is worse. It’s going to be worse for them later. [Pause]
FA: So, you do deal with a lot. [Laughter]
CG: Well I think this life is kind of complicated, and it’s not easy but it is very rewarding. I love it because most of my students pass through all of this and they do good and then I see them in college. That’s my reward, I’m happy and they send me the pictures of their babies [turns towards bulletin board with photos]. And when they get married and get their citizenship, they send me the pictures. And they invite me to their baptisms of the kids. We are, we are like a family.
FA: [Laughter] So this is like your new family, your extended family.
CG: Yeah, it’s kind of an extended family, a big family. I have a lot of grandchildren. [Laughter] Like twenty something and it’s growing and growing.
FA: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about how you first got into teaching and the education system in general?
CG: Well in my country, I studied a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. Then I did some specializations in my country too. That was--. Well actually, it was an educational career like here; it was five years, five years in my country. I get this bachelor’s degree and then I applied, they did this advertisement about the VIF program. And I just, ‘well why not, let’s try’ and I get it. It was an interview and you have to have teaching experience and certain qualities and things. But my--. I learned my English in my country and it was a Bachelor’s degree in English, it was for five years.
FA: Then the VIF program was the exchange program to come here?
CG: Yes, that was the exchange program. Then I came here back in 2001 and then I was teaching there for these three years. But in my country I was teaching when I was in the university, you can do this there. [Laughter] You can do everything there. So I was teaching since I was, I think, in the second semester of the university. So they said, ‘ok we pay you at half money.’ And I say, ‘ok’ and I had previous experience for about nine years before coming here. So I started really, really young and actually when I came, when I immigrated from Colombia, I was teaching at a university there too, after I did the major, the specialization, I got a job in the university, I was teaching English in the psychology faculty, it was fascinating. I love psychology, I think I am a frustrated psychologist because I really love it.
FA: Great. So you’ve been at this school for ten years?
CG: Ten.
FA: So, have you seen the Latino population increase over that time?
CG: Oh, yes, yes.
FA: Can you describe that a little bit?
CG: Oh yes, yes. Well, at the beginning when I just came here we had a population of about 27 or 28 but now we have a population of about 37. So it’s growing a lot, we have a lot of teenagers and a lot coming from the middle schools. And actually after the DREAM Act thing, Affirmative Action I think they call it.
FA: Deferred Action?
CG: Yes, Deferred Action. They have been immigrating just more often. I know now its more difficult, it’s been very difficult to immigrate. As a matter of fact, last month we have three new students; three new students coming. It’s like wow and this semester we have had like seven. And when I say new students I mean newcomers, people who came to this country for the first time. Because sometimes you have students that come from a different country but have been here for a long time but newcomers-about seven. Those are people with zero English that come to this country for the first time. That is amazing. I think they are, I don’t know. The population is growing really, really fast here in North Carolina and I have seen the statistics and this is what they say too. The population is growing but I think it is wonderful because if you compare Sanford--the Sanford-- that I found when I came ten years ago and the Sanford we have now, there is no point of comparison. I mean the growth of the city, the economy. When I came here, there were only two car dealers and now we have like seven or eight. And we have an increase in the real estate business and the grocery stores and everything and if you go and see who are the customers, the Latino population is the main. I mean if you go to a restaurant and I think it’s a very--. I mean I was talking to my husband, my ex-husband and he has been here for about eighteen years, and he said ‘well you can imagine how was this town was before the Latino population. It was like, it was a small town with nothing to do, no business.’ And in the last ten years maybe, we are talking about the last eight to ten years, the growing has been incredible and it’s mostly because of the Latino immigration, I think.
FA: And is there any--. You talked a little bit about with the students, when they first get here they feel discriminated, or alone in certain ways. Do you see that there’s any like discrimination from the community? You were explaining a little bit about the growth of the community but do you see any, I guess, anti-immigrant sort of things going on here?
CG: Feelings? Well, I think it’s not just here; it’s in the whole country. After the economy crashed, the government, the presiding government, it was an anti-immigrant feeling I think in the whole country. Because well I, I understand that, they need somebody to point. I don’t think it’s an anti-immigrant attitude; it’s just a [Pause] lack of communication, lack of establishing a real exchange of productive ideas for sharing. And most of this is because there are barriers; the language barrier, the cultural barrier. Many things that are kind of difficult to overcome. It’s not an anti-immigrant situation, it’s isolation, I would say, it’s lack of communication.
FA: One thing I wanted to ask you more about, because you are one of the teacher liaisons with the SLI program at UNC, when did that partnership start? How did that begin?
CG: Oh, I’m so glad, I’m so glad I’m working with this. It was back in 2000 and six or seven, no it was later, I think it was like in 2010. Actually there was a teacher, her name was Deborah Wilkes, and she was the person that started the program here in Lee County. Then she resigned, she got another job in a different county and she said, ‘well, you want to do it.’ And I said, ‘yeah, I would love it.’ And I started working on this and I am so glad. It has been a wonderful experience. I think they are doing a lot for the students, it’s not just the scholarships, it’s just the self-esteem. And they are giving them confidence, a lot of self-confidence, they are giving them support, tutoring. They are showing them a different world; they are showing them that there are many opportunities waiting for them. So I am so glad to see students that are in UNC, students that won scholarships that were my students, oh my god. I am very, very grateful for that because I am working hard on this and even with this stuff that I have to do this is something that is very, very important. This is the way that we start, we have been working on this--. I think that at the beginning, since it was a relatively new program, they were just trying to see how to do things better but now they are consolidating. They are having policies, very specific policies and I think it is very good for the students. I think they are doing a good thing for the students.
FA: The students enjoy it?
CG: Oh yes, they feel so proud. Every time when I, when they start the registration or the application process, I have a lot of students begging [Laughter], ‘I want to do it, please, please.’ And I say, ‘ok, I will do my best.’ But there are always more applications waiting, on standby because they want to do it because they listen to the other students and they see that they get to go to the university. And UNC-Chapel Hill is a very prestigious place and so they say, ‘please, I want to participate.’ And I say, ‘well, you have to earn it.’ I am grateful, last year for the first time they accepted two students that were in my class. That means, their proficiency in English were very low but they were very hard working students and I said, ‘please give them the opportunity’ because one of the requirements is to be completely fluent in English. And I said, ‘please give them the opportunity because they want to do it.’ They are two of the best students in the program, they just come in and they are remaining and they are working hard. Actually, after they enrolled in SLI, the next semester they exited the ESL program. So they were at proficiency level and I said, ‘see, I told you, you wouldn’t regret.’ I’m so proud of those kids because they have the level they require for that and they did it with hard work. They were in this country for about two years, they only had one year of ESL.
FA: That’s awesome.
CG: Yes it is. They have very good expectations; they have very good long-term education goals. And I know they are going to do it, I am positive.
FA: That’s great. That’s great. [Pause] I think I have a couple more questions for you. You answered a lot of what I wanted to know about how you support the students and some of the challenges you face, I think, on a daily basis. Do you feel overwhelmed and is there ever--is there--a way for you to get help if you are overwhelmed?
CG: Yes, I have the support of my, of the central office of education, I have a wonderful ESL team. My boss is a wonderful person and the director of the program, Dr. Warren, is wonderful. Mrs. Mills who is the coordinator of the teachers, is wonderful. And they have the requirement that makes everything possible and it’s that they love those kids. They love those kids. They really put all their heart into them. And I think that’s the number one requirement, if you don’t teach with love, if you don’t love those kids, if you don’t believe in them, if you don’t trust them, there is nothing to do.
FA: Do you get to meet with the team a lot and how many ESL teachers are there?
CG: Actually, we have like, I can’t say exactly the number, but like twenty something and we have some teacher assistants too. Well, we meet every month and we just share experiences and they are very similar at all the levels. At elementary school you listen to the same stories, in middle school the same stories, and in high school, exactly the same. Actually, the profile of all the ESL teachers in the program is very similar. We have to keep in mind that they must need the support and be appreciated and feel--build--self-esteem and self-confidence. Show them to success in this world and this society. It is a very good thing to work with, we are pretty busy all the time but I think we are doing good, at least we are doing our best. I know that.
FA: I think it’s good that y’all have that time to be with each other and really talk about the successes and challenges at the same time.
CG: Yes, happy stories and sad stories and everything. It’s wonderful.
FA: That’s great. That’s great. So, I think one of the last questions I have, how do you--. For the students you are working with, the ones that are successful, are there--. I guess I’m trying to think about this. Are there other programs? I can’t remember the name of them: SIOP, some of them do the Scholar’s Latino Initiative. I was wondering about other support systems other than coming to you, specifically for Latino students? How have they been able to be successful?
CG: Well. Actually we, here in the school, we don’t have a like a counselor being a specialist in finding opportunities for the Latino population specifically so we have to do by ourselves. All the process for applying for scholarships, for applying for college, getting a-you know-just like doing the classes, taking the correct classes, and things like that has been done through the ESL counselor that is also a Latino person, from Argentina. I’m doing everything I can and also the central office helps too. I don’t know exactly a program but if they know about a scholarship, they know about a seminar or program for Latino students, they are always looking for that. Actually, I think next month they are going to the summit, the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals. And we have been attending this event every year and this is through the central office, they are supporting that too. Maybe like six years ago, I was working with the El Pueblo organization.
FA: In Raleigh.
CG: And they came here and they gave them some information about smoking, preventing many things. They did a good job and we went to seminars with them. But it’s like on the personal level, if you know about this scholarship, you’ll send me an email and I’ll share it with the students. But there is nothing besides SLI; there is nothing like a program that puts them together and all their aspirations together and gives them the opportunity to go and do things like in a punctual or concrete way.
FA: Do you find that the Latino students here tend to stick with other Latino students; that they’re usually with them?
CG: Yes, they are usually hanging around one to each other. I haven’t seen a lot of interaction among the different cultures or ethnicities here. I would say almost zero.
FA: Okay, wow.
CG: It’s just Latinos and Latinos, African-Americans African-Americans, White White.
FA: Ok, I think that’s most of the questions I have for you. You’ve given me a lot of information and your story is so great.
CG: You’re going to be in trouble with your transcript [Laughter].
FA: It’ll be fine. You’re an interesting person and I’ll get to read it all over again and come back to ask you some more questions about certain things that I missed. But yeah, I think you’re doing a lot of great things at this school and I wish I would have had someone who is as inspiring as you are in high school and able to really help me along the way because I think you’re doing a great service for a lot of students that are here.
CG: Thank you, thank you.
FA: Do you want to add anything else, some last thoughts or anything?
CG: Well, thank you for the opportunity to share my experience because if it’s going to be helpful for somebody, then that’s the idea. Because it can show we can do whatever we want and if you put your heart into everything you do, you will do better. And I am so proud to see you, you are in the university and maybe I will invite you to one of my classes.
FA: [Laughter] I’ll come, I’ll be here.
CG: So you will show your spirit and your credentials and they are going to see that you can do it.
FA: Once I give this back to you, you can share it with your class.
CG: Yes, it will be wonderful.
FA: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.
CG: My pleasure, you’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me.