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Sterling HS dean uses his journey from laborer to educator to inspire others

2012 October 31
by HISD Communications

You are Dean of Students at Sterling High School, but you first became involved in HISD when your own children were in elementary school.

Yes. I became involved because I wanted to help my children navigate the educational system. I had no formal education and was an immigrant from Mexico. I was doing labor work – doing whatever came my way, mowing grass and painting houses. My children motivated me to become involved in educational issues. I decided to go to Houston Community College. I enrolled in English courses, earned my GED, and went on to get my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, and I have taken doctoral courses.  

Sometimes parents aren’t sure how to be involved in their child’s school. What advice do you have for them?

I remember it was frustrating not knowing how a school functions. I would suggest that parents go to their child’s school. Talk to teachers. Talk to everyone there and learn about the programs that are available for parents. Many schools offer GED programs and computer skills courses. By taking part in those, you can show your child that you value education.

How would you say your own life has changed since you decided to make education a priority for yourself?

I believe that the measure of success is not how high you get, but how many obstacles you overcome in life. Life has shown me both sides.

What is most satisfying about your work at Sterling?

The most satisfying moment is to see kids succeed. I have the opportunity to work with them on a personal level. Many students have been in trouble with the law, they have problems at home, they are dealing with pregnancy, or gang activity. But when I see them walk across the stage and receive their diploma, it is very, very satisfying. It is my pay day.

How do you motivate students who are dealing with those challenges?

By listening. The students know that I am not going to solve their problems. I can’t fix everybody’s life, but what I can give them is perspective and guidance. In many cases, that’s what they want. They want someone who will listen rather than be judgmental. There are great kids at Sterling. I’m amazed by the challenges that they face at home, and yet, they show up every morning and come to school. I want to make Sterling a gateway to success for them.

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