Sunday, June 12, 2011

School Has Amazing Success! Teacher and Blogger Nick Contreraz Educates Students and helps them to "Code Switch" (The Value of Both Worlds!)

Nick Contreraz is a Latino, Role-Model Teacher and a Blogger. Recently, Minnesota Public Radio News (MPR) did a story on the school where Nick teaches. He was interviewed for the story. Here are some excerpts: reports: St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota's first Jesuit high school graduates its first class on Saturday. Minneapolis' Cristo Rey High School puts low-income, inner-city youth through an education based on faith, diligent school work and a mandatory corporate job. Administrators say that combination has resulted in nearly all of this year's graduates going on to college. Cristo Rey credits its success to the combination of school and work, which they say breeds confidence... Cristo Rey is part of a national network of more than 20 high schools. They recruit low-income, urban kids, putting them through a rigorous high school experience with long school days and long school years. Each student must work after school one day a week in professional settings, like law firms and hospitals. The jobs come from the schools' corporate partners. The students' earnings go directly to the schools and pay for about half their tuition. The schools also put an emphasis on faith, although all faiths are accepted...

Cristo Rey High School opened four years ago in the diverse Phillips neighborhood About 270 students are enrolled. Of the 60 students in its first graduating class, more than half plan to attend a four-year college. Luis Nava Torres received a full scholarship to attend the University of St Thomas. Most other graduates will attend two-year schools. Four students joined the Marine Corps...

Religious studies teacher Nick Contreraz said kids also worry the school's asking them to be something they're not. He said they call it "acting white." "I think one of the key successes we have here is to show that it's not a matter of 'acting white,' it's how to navigate the professional world and how to be successful in the professional world, while also being true to yourself."

Contreraz said it's important for students to understand different behaviors work in different environments. Principal Jeb Myers said businesses are looking for diverse candidates who can move between both worlds. "For them, it's a win," Myers said. "They know they're getting someone who's worked before. They know they're getting somebody that's college-educated and then they know that they're diverse. I know it sounds kind of utopian but really, if we can keep this rolling, it can really change what's happening in the United States." Myers said the school is on strong financial footing, with several major benefactors committed long-term. He said Cristo Rey will soon add a position to help guide graduates who've gone on to college. Myers hopes in another four years, Cristo Rey will be there to help its first class of graduates find permanent jobs.

Nick is one of those very special teachers that truly believes in and supports his students, teaching from his heart, with conviction, gaining their trust, thereby enabling them to want to learn and want to be a success. He helps them understand their own personal value, the importance of appreciating your home life/heritage while understanding the importance of understanding and adapting to your working environment. BOTH HAVE VALUE! And this is ALL discussed Openly!
I read Nick's blog which led me to the MPR article. His Blog is funny, honest and risky in the sense he is not afraid to tell the truth. Here are some excerpts from his Blog. I'm including a link to his Blog. I'm sure some of the ANTIs will be offended because they are not reading the intent of his words. Humanitarian readers will clearly understand Nick's very positive message:
Nick's Blog: Are You Sure You're Mexican?
Topic: I Lean Like a Cholo, But Talk Like A Guerro
Big topic of conversation this week: "Talking White." Since I have been at my predominantly Latino school, teaching, this has been a claim not only against myself, by students, but also a claim against the school that we are trying to make our students talk and act white. Now, to be fair to my educated readers, I will refer to "talking white" as such, as this is the terminology my students use not realizing the potential danger of *gasp* offending a white person.
Racial identity, as I have said in an earlier blog, is something I often times obsess about. Sure, its always been an issue, growing up in the state of Montana where I felt like a raisin in a box of corn flakes, but didn't become a serious point of contention until recently. My first year at my current school, my students caught on right away to the fact my last name was Latino, so wanted to know what my first name was. Now, we have a lot of Joses, Luis's, Eduardos and the like. They didn't expect for me to say my name is Nick. This then naturally lead to questions about my middle name. I told them it is Jerome. Then the laughter ensued. They asked so eloquently, "What the hell are you Maestro (this is the Spanish word for teacher)?" I asked what they meant. And one brave student said, You have a white first name. A black middle name. A Mexican last name. What are you? Another student then chimed in: Well he looks sorta Mexican. He listens to black music. He talks like a guerro. He's Mr. Globo (translates to globe). So for about a week, this was my nick-name. Also, this was the start of a roller-coaster ride of emotion over the issue of language vs. racial identity...

So, ultimately, the difference between teaching our students to "act white" and to code switch, is that we are teaching them that there is value in both systems. To teach our students to act white, would mean that we are negating not just their culture and experience, but who they are as human beings. To code switch offers value to both systems (professional/white & their home/street life). It teaches them there is an appropriate way to act in both settings.

(read the rest of Nick's Blog here)


Areyousureyou'reMexican? said...

I want to thank you for your support and very kind words! As a newbie to this blogging thing, I've been a bit nervous about what I have written so far. I'm not always sure if what I am trying to say comes across. Having your support has encouraged me, and I will continue to fight the good fight, in my own unique way. Again, thank you.

-Nick (Are You Sure You're Mexican)

Dee said...

You are a great role model for your students and I love your blog.

I know you will be an even greater success in the future in both areas!!

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