Educator and Political Activist Jose Ferrer Canales

The teaching profession abounds with talented and dedicated educators who have devoted their entire lives to their practice. Such is certainly the case with Jose Ferrer Canales, a high school Spanish teacher from Puerto Rico who was also an accomplished journalist, essayist, and political activist.

Jose was born in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 18, 1913, into an impoverished, working-class family. As a youngster, he attended Pedro G. Boyco Elementary School, and as a teenager, he graduated from Central Superior High School. Because of his family’s poverty, Jose worked to help support his family, even though he was still in school.

After his high school graduation, Jose enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, completing the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in 1937. In 1944, he earned his MA in Arts. Jose accepted his first teaching position at a high school in Humacao, where he taught Spanish from 1937 to 1943. Once he earned his master’s degree, Jose was awarded a grant to continue his studies in Spanish and Latin American literature at Columbia University in New York City. While in New York, Jose taught Spanish at Hunter College.

In 1946, the veteran educator returned to his home island where he accepted a position in the Department of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. There he became actively involved in the island’s pro-independence movement. In 1949, when he was fired from the university because of his political activities, he relocated to the United States, where he taught at universities in Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, DC. After some years, Jose moved to Mexico, where he attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico, earning his PhD in Letters in 1952. In 1963, Jose was able to once again return to his home island and his position at the University of Puerto Rico. He pursued contributions to the field of education and the publication of numerous essays and journal articles until his retirement in 1983.

Because of his lengthy and distinguished career, Jose earned several prestigious honors. He was given the Journalist Prize from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in 1990. He was honored with the Prize of Honor from the Puerto Rican Athenaeum in 1994. He was also named the Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Humanities Foundation in 1997.

This chalkboard champion passed away of natural causes on July 20, 2005, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. He was 91 years old. He is interred at Villa Palmaeras Cemetery in Puerto Rico.

Spanish Teacher Jose Ferrer Canales: A Puerto Rican Chalkboard Champion

canales 2The teaching profession abounds with talented and dedicated educators who have devoted their entire lives to their practice. Such is certainly the case with Jose Ferrer Canales, a high school Spanish teacher from Puerto Rico who was also an accomplished journalist, essayist, and political activist.

Jose was born in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 18, 1913, into an impoverished, working-class family. As a youngster, he attended Pedro G. Boyco Elementary School, and as a teenager, he graduated from Central Superior High School. Because of his family’s poverty, Jose worked to help support his family, even though he was still in school.

After his high school graduation, Jose enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, completing the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in 1937. In 1944, he earned his MA in Arts. Jose accepted his first teaching position at a high school in Humacao, where he taught Spanish from 1937 to 1943. Once he earned his master’s degree, Jose was awarded a grant to continue his studies in Spanish and Latin American literature at Columbia University in New York City. While in New York, Jose taught Spanish at Hunter College.

In 1946, the veteran educator returned to his home island where he accepted a position in the Department of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. There he became actively involved in the island’s pro-independence movement. In 1949, when he was fired from the university because of his political activities, he relocated to the United States, where he taught at universities in Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, DC. After some years, Jose moved to Mexico, where he attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico, earning his PhD in Letters in 1952. In 1963, Jose was able to once again return to his home island and his position at the University of Puerto Rico. He pursued contributions to the field of education and the publication of numerous essays and journal articles until his retirement in 1983.

Because of his lengthy and distinguished career, Jose earned several prestigious honors. He was given the Journalist Prize from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in 1990. He was honored with the Prize of Honor from the Puerto Rican Athenaeum in 1994. He was also named the Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Humanities Foundation in 1997.

This chalkboard champion passed away of natural causes on July 20, 2005, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. He was 91 years old. He is interred at Villa Palmaeras Cemetery in Puerto Rico.

High School Teacher Jessie Redmon Vauset: She Influenced the Harlem Renaissance

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationMany talented educators have earned renown in fields other than the teaching profession. Such is certainly the case with Jessie Redmon Fauset, a high school Latin and French teacher from New Jersey.

Jessie was born in Fredericksville, Camden County, New Jersey, on April 27, 1882. although she was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Annie Seamon Fauset. When she was just a child, her mother passed away and her father remarried. Jessie’s father was not wealthy, but he instilled in all his children the great importance of education.

As a youngster, Jessie attended the highly-respected Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she may have been the only African American student in her class. Once she graduated, she wanted to enroll at prestigious Bryn Mawr College. Unfortunately, the institution was reluctant to accept its first African American student, and instead offered to assist Jessie in acquiring a scholarship to Cornell University. Jessie excelled at Cornell, and so she was invited to join the distinguished academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her bachelors’s degree in classical languages in 1905, and later earned her master’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.

Even though Jessie had earned a superior college education, her race prevented her from gaining a job as a teacher in Philadelphia. Instead, she accepted teaching positions first in Baltimore, Maryland, and then in Washington, DC, where she taught French and Latin at Dunbar High School.

In 1912, while still teaching, Jessie began to submit reviews, essays, poems, and short stories to The Crisis, a magazine for African American readers founded and edited by author and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. Seven years later, DuBois persuaded the talented educator to become the publication’s literary editor. Jessie did this work during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of prolific artistic output within the black community. As the magazine’s editor, Jessie encouraged and influenced a number of up-and-coming writers, including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay. She also continued to write her own pieces for the magazine. In addition to her work at The Crisis, Jessie also served as co-editor for The Brownies’ Book, which was published monthly from 1920 to 1921. The goal of the publication was to teach African American children about their heritage, information the former educator had fervently wished for throughout her own childhood.

After reading an inaccurate depiction of African Americans in a book written by a white author, Jessie became inspired to write her own novel. Her first book, There Is Confusion (1924), portrayed black characters in a middle-class setting. It was an unusual choice for the time, which made it more difficult for Jessie to find a publisher. In 1926, Jessie left her position at The Crisis in 1926 and looked for work in the publishing field, even offering to work from home so that her race wouldn’t be a barrier. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find enough work to support herself.

To make ends meet, Jessie returned to teaching, accepting a position at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City. James Baldwin, the acclaimed African American novelist and playwright, may have been one of her students there. Jessie was employed in the New York school system until 1944. During her New York years, Jessie wrote three more novels: Plum Bun (1929), The Chinaberry Tree (1931), and Comedy: American Style (1933). Jessie’s primarily upper-class characters continued to deal with the themes of prejudice, limited opportunities, and cultural compromises. Because her last two novels were less successful than her previous works, Jessie’s extensive writing output decreased.

In 1929, Jessie fell in love and married businessman Herbert Harris. She was 47 years old at the time. The couple made their home in Montclair, New Jersey. They lived there until 1958, when Herbert passed away. After her husband’s death, Jessie returned to Philadelphia, where she died on April 30, 1961, a victim of heart disease. She was 79 years old.

Best New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers

I came across this really terrific article published yesterday in the Huffington Post. It was written by Dallas Rico, an educator and young adult novelist. Because the post really resonated with me, I am reprinting it here:

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The New Year’s Resolution Every Teacher Should Make

by Dallas Rico

In a week, we’ll see tons of prominent store displays and ads stacked with weight loss shakes, protein bars and supplement pills. That’s because, year after year, losing weight and getting in shape are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably, around February, many give up on that goal, just in time for all the beer and hot wings that come with Super Bowl parties.

Though I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions (given their failure rate), I do believe that we teachers are positioned to make and keep them. Why? Because that holiday break removes us from our normal day-to-day routine and affords us time to reflect on our practice. Naturally, as we spend the holidays out of the classroom, we think about how the first semester went and come up with ways to improve for the next.

Personally, I plan to develop more student-centered projects that bring their learning to life. As a Spanish teacher, I have the opportunity to make lessons more meaningful beyond worksheets and tests. I realize I can do more with that and will strive to do so next year. Perhaps you want to seek more professional development opportunities or become more involved in school programs. Maybe you want to make a better effort calling parents or returning assignments back quicker (the struggle is real).

In my years in education, I’ve seen a number of complacent teachers who are content with using the same lesson plans, assessments and materials each year. The truth is that even teachers who’ve been in the profession for over 25 years can improve in one way or another.

On the other side, the first year teacher may utterly feel overwhelmed and needing to get better at various things. That’s why every teacher can and should strive to improve in at least one way. That’s a reasonable New Year’s resolution, one that often happens naturally, but it still must be stated.

Due to the cyclical nature of education, especially if you teach the same subject and level each year, it’s easy to fall into a groove and always do the exact same thing, as if you’re an actor on a Broadway show. But I urge educators to find at least one way they can improve this year and create a plan to stick to it.

Thoughtful school administrators can also help teachers become more introspective. By introducing key school-wide initiatives, they push faculty to try new things. For instance, in a school I taught at in Los Angeles, the principal asked all teachers, even the Art, Math and P.E. teachers, to create one writing assignment within a two month period. The ultimate goal was to get students to write more and to improve the clarity of their arguments. After the window of time, all the teachers met and reflected on the process.

As a result, some, like our algebra teacher, began assigning more writing, thus, giving students more practice. Mission accomplished. Likewise, a savvy administrator can get the school to address a common issue with such an initiative.

For-profit companies set goals to make more money. Teachers set goals to get more students prepared for college and career. The better the teacher, the more prepared students will be. It all begins with saying “this year I will be a better teacher for my students by ______________.”

To view the original article, click on this link: New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers.

 

Spanish-language teacher and 2005 National Hall of Fame Inductee Marilyn Barrueta of Virginia

Marilyn_BarruetaIt is always a wonderful thing when an exceptional educator is recognized for their endeavors. The recognition inspires the rest of us to work harder. I certainly experienced such inspiration when I read the story of Marilyn Barrueta, a Spanish-language teacher from Virginia. This innovative and tireless educator was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2005, after a lengthy and illustrious career that spanned 48 years.

Marilyn was born November 28, 1935. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1957, and completed graduate work at several distinguished institutions, including Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Virginia.

For many years, Marilyn taught Spanish, Advanced Placement Spanish, and Spanish for Native Speakers at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to working at Yorktown High, Marilyn taught English as a second language, math, and social studies at Stratford Junior High School in Virginia. Marilyn also taught summer school sessions for Arlington’s adult education program.

“She challenged me beyond just the classroom,” remembered Marilyn’s former student Julianne Koch, “and when I look back at how much I have grown in the past several years, I know much of it is because of her.”

This most impressive educator was also greatly admired by her peers, and several took the occasion of her induction to express their admiration. “Most impressive to me,” expressed Bill A. Heller, Department Chair of Perry High School, “is Marilyn’s tireless pursuit of knowledge. Through the lens of her experience, she is able to examine and evaluate the most promising new research, techniques and materials, and integrate those new findings with the very best of her vast repertoire of highly effective classroom-tested activities.”

This chalkboard champion passed away on November 4, 2010, in McLean, Virginia. She was 74 years old.