Over a 46+ year period, I have lived in over 30 different residences, in eight different states, the Nation’s capitol, and a U.S. territory (Puerto Rico), attended nine different K-12 schools, and five different universities in states ranging from South Carolina and southern Virginia during the throes of the desegregation efforts of the 1970ʼs to the Washington, DC – Maryland – Virginia metroplex rich in cultural diversity to New York and Rhode Island with more conservative perspectives to Texas and Illinois sharing Midwest values to California and a more open-minded outlook.
I was privileged to attend superb institutions of higher learning ranging from a military academy steeped in U.S. history and tradition to a stellar university outside of our nation’s capitol to the Jesuit principled teachings of a small university. Each of these imparted precious knowledge and experience to me that I wish to share with secondary students of my own, specifically in the field of mathematics, and at a later point, physics and, perhaps economics.
I married a first-generation Mexican-American who is also a first-generation college graduate, with a degree in mathematics and Spanish. Getting to know her large Hispanic family over the past twenty years has helped me appreciate the Hispanic community locally as well as the possibility for those who live in that community to rise above challenges through hard work, perseverance and pride. My wife is a certificated math teacher at a local high school teaching geometry and ELD (English Language Development) math. She is the eldest of five, three of whom are public safety officers, and the other an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. Neither of her parents attended college, and after emigrating from Mexico to the U.S., raised five children all of whom graduated from college, one attaining a master’s degree.
I come from very modest, blue-collar roots and was the first on both sides of my family to go to college. My maternal grandfather was French-Canadian, completed the third grade, left school to help provide for his family, worked through the Great Depression as a lumberjack, truck driver, skilled laborer, and doing whatever else for which he could find work. My maternal grandmother worked as a homemaker and at a department store. My paternal grandfather came from Shenandoah, Virginia, with its Irish-Scott roots, where folks are notably known as “Hillbillies,” and worked as a security guard for most of his life while my paternal grandmother drove a city bus in Baltimore, Maryland.
Both my parents worked extremely hard to provide for their family of five children, with me as the oldest. My mom was seventeen years old when I was born, my dad nineteen. Over the first 25 years of their marriage, with the weight of life occasionally crushing down on them, my parents separated twice, and yet came back together both times working out their differences to the greatest extent possible; life is not as easy as you think it might be when you are younger, contrary to what we all likely believed in our own youth.
I give my parents tremendous credit for ultimately sticking together through all the challenges they experienced in life; today’s me-centered lifestyle would not support staying together, sadly, a disservice to family, children, and society.*
Life was definitely dynamic for our family, moving up and down the East Coast following my dad’s new assignments in the Navy, initially as an enlisted man, then non-commissioned officer and finally, as a warrant officer, retiring as a CWO-4 (Chief Warrant Officer, Grade 4). My mom worked as a waitress, secretary and office manager when times were tough. She also suffered a near fatal medical condition when I was in high school when she came down with Guillain–Barre syndrome, from which she thankfully recovered fully.
Both of my parents were, and still are, brilliant and I owe my ability to learn, retain and apply knowledge to both of them. Even though they were unable to pursue college degrees themselves due to life circumstances, they both are as smart, or smarter than most who received bachelors, masters, and even Ph.Ds, except me, of course, but I still debate with them to keep them on their toes. 🙂
In my 25-year career in high-tech, I spent a significant amount of time in Europe and Asia doing business with non-native English speakers. In these places, I learned to value others and seek their meanings in order to: 1) fit in, 2) be accepted and understood, 3) understand others and 4) succeed. In other words, I evolved my outlook of the world and its citizens in my interactions whether for business or pleasure and learned to appreciate the goodness of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality or other demographic characterization.
Also, between my youth and first career, I lived among a very diverse socioeconomic range of people and communities while attending primary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate schools. Life may have been tough growing up, and in my first career for a variety of other reasons; however, it was great in so many other ways as well. I have had the pleasure of experiencing so many wonderful people, communities, places, foods, customs, etcetera that I would not have lived any other way. I am who I am due to this wonderfully diverse, eclectic life I have lived, one that allowed me to see so much of our country, and world, treasuring its beauty, both internal and external, so that I may share that wonderment with my children, my two boys as well as all of my future students.
Now, after my 25+ years in high-tech, with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and an MBA in finance and marketing behind me, I am embarking on a second career to which I feel a calling. I have felt something calling to me for many, many years but was never tuned in enough to figure out what; now, I know and its teaching high school students how to make the most of themselves in life as capable, competent citizens: full of self-esteem and self-confidence tempered by some humility and empathy for those who have less and eager to serve their nation and this world in their life, whatever they choose.
While the subject I will teach is mathematics, it is simply the conduit for my wish to impart to students, of all socioeconomic backgrounds: knowledge, the ability to think independently and in groups, the confidence to make mistakes and fail while pulling oneself up so as to never give up entirely, the wisdom to seek help, and the desire to do your best.
* So as to not be labeled a hypocrite, I, myself, have lived through a separation in my marriage, of my choice; but after deep reflection, realized that life with my wife and boys together all the time was better than life as two separate families, especially for my boys, but also for my wife and me.