ESL Professor, Former ESL Student, Now Published Poet and Adjunct
The end of the academic year provides a moment to reflect upon, and celebrate, successes of our students who have achieved the goals that they set while at Cañada, as well as the preparation for the next steps in their respective journeys. This student success story is very special as the ultimate goal was to return to where his journey began… Cañada College.
“I first met Gerardo when he was a student in one of my ESL classes,” recalled Cañada ESL Professor Jenny Castello. “When he was in my ESL Reading Level 3 class, I remember noticing him as a student in this class because he was very eager to learn and was very engaged in class. By the time I had him in ESL Grammar 4, he had become a student with very strong motivation to succeed and very good academic skills.”
Gerardo continued on his educational pathway at Cañada where he earned his Associate in Arts Degree in English with High Honors and transferred to San Francisco State University (SFSU) with a scholarship. He stayed in touch with the College while at SFSU and was invited back as a guest speaker (and read some of his poetry) at Cañada’s ESL Recognition Event. He continued his education at SFSU and earned a Master of Fine Art degree in Creative Writing and just last year, earned a certificate in Teaching English as Second Language (TESOL). Gerardo also completed his student teaching in Professor Castello’s ESL 912 class where she shared that Gerardo was very easy to work with as a student teacher because he worked hard to prepare for the lessons that he taught and connected right away with the students.
Gerardo is now an award-winning and published Poet, Creative Writing Instructor at SFSU and also teaches ESL 901 Language Skills for Workforce Careers at Puente de la Costa Sur in Pescadero; the program is part of Cañada’s off-campus ESL Program and in collaboration with La Costa Adult School and Puente de la Costa Sur, one of the College’s ACCEL partners. In addition, last year, he was invited to be part of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, one of the oldest and recognized writers’ retreats in the nation, and this summer, he will be joining some of the most well-known Latin writers at the CantoMundo Writers’ Retreat and Macondo Workshop in Texas and the Frost Place writer’s retreat in Franconia, New Hampshire.
“One of the many things I have dreamt in my life is teaching at Cañada College,” shared Gerardo. “As an undocumented student, Cañada College gave me the tools to dream. At Cañada, I learned to read, write and pursue a career. I also found mentors like Jenny Castello. She is a great teacher, role model, friend, mentor and I wish to be a fraction of the teacher she is. Cañada College gave me a chance to succeed regardless of my legal status. At Cañada College, I feel like I have a real family. Teaching at Cañada has fulfilled my promise to give back to my community. I believe I can have a positive influence on my students’ lives by sharing my life story. I always tell my students, ‘If I could reach my dreams, you can do it too.’ Coming back to Cañada is a dream come true.”
Congratulations, Gerardo, on your many accomplishments! We are so lucky to have you as a part of our Cañada family. Thank you for inspiring our students to achieve their dreams.