"If dual language educators, school administrators, and district leaders don't support and/or understand dual language programming and biliteracy instruction, students will never reap the full benefits of being in such a program." – Dr. José Medina; January 12, 2018; SDCOE Dual Language and English Learner Conference; Keynote Address
As I sit to type this article, I find myself feeling exhilarated, having just delivered a keynote address that focused on the importance of cultural proficiency in serving language learners, as part of a dual language and ESL conference in California. I am blessed to be able to serve in such a capacity, and also, because my vision for dual language service is clear in my mind and my heart, thanks to my Abuelita Juanita, her chancla (slipper), and the motto that she lived by – lo que se dice, se hace. That which you say, you do.
Some kind colleagues, have once or twice, referred to me as a transformational leader. Humbled by their words, I often tell them about my greatest mentor – my Abuelita Juanita. In my mind, I am and continue to be…Junior (Yu-nee-or), my Abuelita's leadership student who needed her strong mentorship. Juanita was with me, on that California keynote stage, at times, speaking through me, although physically she has been gone for several years now. You see, she is the one that taught me about transformational leadership and growth mindset, long before those were educational buzz words.
My Abuelita Juanita was 94 years old when she passed away in May 2015. She died several days before I was to walk in the graduation ceremony where I would officially receive my doctoral degree. La Juanita, as I lovingly sometimes called her, was so proud that one of her grandchildren was a Doctor of Education. She told me that she wanted to see a lot of pictures of the ceremony so that she could show them off to everyone she knew. Juanita also asked me if all the teachers at HPES and RBES, where I used to be a dual language school principal, knew that I was graduating. You see, my Abuelita knew she was "famous" because everyone I worked with, every audience I addressed, understood that she was the one that taught me the mantra that I live and serve by, "lo que se dice, se hace."
I was already living in the Washington, DC area, but I was able to travel to El Paso, Texas and cross the Puente Libre to see her in Ciudad Juárez in February 2015. She and I had spoken on the phone and she asked me to come see her. She said, "tal vez no dure más de unos meses, Junior; quiero verte una última vez." She wanted me to come see her because she did not think she would be alive for more than a couple of months and wanted us to be together one last time. My Abuelita had not been well for a while, and I replied that I would take some days off from work to visit her, but only if she promised to get well – that this, would be one of many more times that we would get to see one another. On Valentine's Day, I hugged my Abuelita Juanita for the last time. My greatest leadership mentor and teacher had passed away.
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