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A mis niños y niñas especiales: To my special students

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This is a love letter to you, my special, smart, and beautiful students. You have touched my heart so deeply and profoundly that words cannot adequately convey how much you mean to me. I write this note, so you know the hopes and dreams I have for you.

You come to a school that is known as a Title 1 school meaning that a lot of students at our school come from economically disadvantaged families. You may not know this as the teachers and staff at our school demand that you receive educational resources and a quality education; the same kind of education that students receive at schools in the wealthier parts of our school district. My hope for you is that you always realize that true wealth is not measured by how much money one has but in how much one stays open to learning and gives of oneself to make the world a better place.

You come to a school that, before the state stopped rating schools, had C and D ratings (due to standardized test scores). You did not know that because when you or anyone else walks into our school, you are greeted with smiles and kindness. The walls throughout the school walls are filled with the wonderful academic work from our K-6 students.

During our gifted classes, as you know, respect for each other takes precedence over everything else. You are different ages, different genders, and different ethnicities. Conflicts happen as they do in life. You handled them with great sophistication, never calling one another names, talking about how the conflict made you feel, and discussing actions to avoid similar conflicts in the future. My hope is that you take this respect and ability to discuss your thoughts and feelings in other parts of your life now and in the future.

We live in a state that is 55% Hispanic and a school that is 85% Hispanic. Your Mexican customs and culture are so very beautiful. It has been a privilege to learn about the Mexican food, music, dance, art, and holidays. I hope you will always be proud of your culture and will freely share it with others who are unfamiliar with it. I owe you an apology in that I didn’t use curriculum materials and resources that featured the Mexican culture. You should have learned more about Mexican writers, artists, scientists, mathematicians, culinary artists, and athletes. I am making a commitment to use such materials during our next school year. To the few of you who are moving onto middle school and won’t be in my gifted classes any longer, I am deeply sorry. I can only wish that your future teachers will use and create such materials. My hope for all of you is that you will educate your children, relatives, friends, and others about your beautiful Mexican culture.

You come from a state that is 55% Hispanic and a school that is 85% Hispanic. Your background and culture are accepted here in New Mexico. You may not be accepted if you end up going to school or living in a state without a majority of a Hispanic population. I’ve had students in the past who told me stories of being shocked when living in another state where there were prejudicial acts against them such as being followed throughout a store; just because of the color of their skin. I hope, as MLK stated, that you will live in a world that you will not be judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character. My hope for you, in any case, is that you have developed the resilience that comes with loving and being proud of who you are regardless of what others may think. Black and Brown lives really do matter.

You come from families with parents who do not have college degrees. My hope for you is that, if you choose to, you will go to college. In my discussions with your parents, that is their hope for you, too. Even though you haven’t had some of the same advantages as wealthier students, you are smart enough, creative enough, and motivated enough to be successful in any college you choose; that you can keep up and even surpass other students at that college.

I write this note to you in times of unrest in the United States due to the murders of Black men and women by the police. I write this note in hopes that you will become an adult who works for justice for all. I know this is a lot of pressure, but my hope and faith come from knowing you will be our future leaders.

I leave you with this Mexican Dichos (Proverb):

You can’t succeed if you don’t try.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 9, 2020 at 5:17 pm

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