'This is My Gasoline': Student Voice Motivates 2021 Latinx Educator of the Year Josué Aguilar
In Josué Aguilar’s classes, students converse fluently in Spanish about their friends, their families ... and their unusual pets.
“Today we were talking about new families. What is a family? And one of them says, in Spanish, ‘I have an iguana.’ And it was true!” Mr. Aguilar said with a laugh.
“Josué contributes to their pride in their cultural identity and sense of belonging,” Dr. Villamandos, Spanish Department Chair at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said. “He proves to them that their culture, their language, has value, and that they have knowledge and skills they don’t even realize.”
WHY LATINX? Click here to read about the terminology we're using in this story on the Latinx Education Collaborative's website.
The nonprofit Latinx Education Collaborative provides resources for Latinx students and teachers while trying to recruit more teachers of color. About a quarter of all students in the U.S. identify as Latinx, but only 8% of educators.
Mr. Aguilar, who identifies as Mexican and grew up in Oaxaca, said all students, not just those who identify as Latinx, benefit when when they have Hispanic teachers.
“Because we are here. We are part of the city. And we teach and do many important jobs. It is important to be noticed,” Mr. Aguilar said.
KCPS World Languages Coordinator Diane Bosilevac praised Mr. Aguilar for creating a classroom culture where all students feel comfortable sharing.
“His classes discuss difficult topics that most Americans want to avoid,” she said. “He has also created a book club with his students and the students of UMKC. When students gather from different environments to learn from one another, magic happens.”
Both students who speak Spanish at home and students who only speak Spanish at school take Mr. Aguilar’s classes. He’s been senior Sidney Richardson’s Spanish teacher since tenth grade.
“He handled COVID very well,” Sidney said. “My biggest exposure to Spanish is through my Spanish class, and he created assignments that challenged us to read, write and speak. He also showed us different cultures, which is a big part of the IB program.”
For his part, Mr. Aguilar said he’s lucky he gets to teach so many highly motivated students.
“The Spanish level here is really, really good. We have students who come from Foreign Language Academy who are fluent,” Mr. Aguilar said. “Yes, I can tell which of my students speak Spanish at home, but in my classroom, they are all participating, they are all reading, they are all doing the work.”
Congratulations, Mr. Aguilar, for representing LCPA and KCPS in the 2021 Latinx Educator of the Year contest!