Just a Thought: teaching in the Hispanic community

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

A majority of my 26-year teaching career was spent in the Hispanic community from the Southside ISD, Southwest ISD, Edgewood ISD and Harlandale ISD.

In the late 70s while in the Southside ISD, I taught reading in elementary school to children of migrant workers. My students would periodically disappear for weeks as their parents left town to travel to the fields of Michigan to pick various types of produce.

When their job assignment was completed, they returned to the Alamo City and re-enrolled their children back into my class. One of my second grade migrant students, Graciela, asked me one day if I was a “bolillo.” After the shock of hearing the translation, I realized it was a compliment!! From then on, I was the ”bolillo.”

In 1980-81, I was honored to teach one year as a senior government teacher at Memorial High School in the Edgewood School District. The students and teachers affectionately referred to the school as “La Memorial.”

Before I began the year at “La Memorial,” I was recruited away from reporting for the Westside and Southside Weekly Suns (part of the Express-News), which now no longer exist since they discontinued them some years later and incorporated those publications into the main body of the paper.

I would write about stories on “La Memorial” for the Westside Sun and the Principal Joe Arriaga would come in to our office and submit press releases and ideas for stories to cover his school. Besides editing press releases, I would also go out into the South Side and West Side to cover activities and events and write feature articles about personalities I encountered in the neighborhoods.

That caught Arriaga’s attention, and he asked me to leave the Suns and come to “La Memorial” and teach since I had a number of years of experience in the classroom.

The next year, I left “La Memorial” when they downsized the faculty and was hired to teach English at “La Techla” (Fox Tech in SAISD) one year before getting an opportunity to work as a weekend reporter and fill-in reporter at KENS-5 Eyewitness News for those reporters who took vacation time. It was during that stint that I interviewed Cesar Chavez while he was in town giving a speech. It helped that the other reporters on duty there were not familiar with Cesar Chavez like I was!

From there I ended up in Southwest ISD some years later as a reading teacher. Then my teaching journey took me to Harlandale ISD where I taught for the next 12 years.

Starting that journey at the alternative center, I completed a semester with troubled students until I was activated for six months during Desert Storm at the Pentagon.

When I returned home, I was reassigned to McCollum High School for the next nine years teaching English, speech, history, geography, journalism and special education before ending up at Kingsborough Middle School for my last year before retirement!

Joseph Medina, one of my ninth grade English students at McCollum, was elected this past year as a NISD School Board Member. Word is I taught him everything he knows!

I am pleased to know that a number of my Hispanic students, like a number of my other former students, are married raising families and successful at what they are doing. I hope I was a part of that success.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.