July 27, 2001

When Teaching Becomes a Family Thing

Latina Mom and Daughters Give Back To Their Community As Educators

It is no surprise that the matriarch of the Castañeda family, Eunice Celinda Castañeda, is a teacher and it is neither a surprise nor a coincidence that all three of her daughters are teachers as well. Eunice remembers that in the small town in Sinaloa, Mexico, where she grew up, teachers were well respected and considered leaders of the community.

"I saw just how much teachers helped the community. That is what stayed with me," recalls Eunice. Although she only had the opportunity to complete six years of formal education in her native land as the second child of eight, Eunice always had the desire to learn. Once in the U.S., she continued her studies. "I promised myself I would learn English. I wanted a profession," she recounts. With the full support of her husband, Eunice raised her daughters, studied and worked as a teacher's assistant.

Eunice now holds a bach-elor's degree and a master's degree. She is very proud to be a role model, encouraging the young students in her humanities class at Mark Keppel Middle School to not only strive for professional success but also for emotional fulfillment. "I hope my students walk away with the ganas to succeed," Eunice says.

Ganas, or the desire to achieve a goal, is a word the Castañeda daughters know well. Eunice's passion for learning is something that is deeply ingrained in the mind and soul of Fatima, the second oldest. "The biggest influence in my life is my mom," declares Fatima, who teaches kindergarten in South Gate. "My mom had ganas to keep learning. It was always about learning new things and internalizing them. For us, school was not just about getting a degree. It was about improving yourself," she adds. Fatima hopes to instill this same passion in her young students. As a Latina educator, she hopes more Latino students will take a proactive role in their education. "The Latino com-munity's mobility will come from our level of education," she states. People who succeed without an education are few and far between. "It is very important to educate our whole community about the educational process in this country," she explains. Families and students need to be educated about the necessary steps to advance successfully in the K-12 process.

This family would agree that there is a great need for more Latino teachers. Understanding students' culture is an important aspect of being an affective teacher. "I want my students to be proud of who they are," remarks oldest daughter, Eunice, who also teaches kindergarten in Norwalk. "A desire of learning and a sense of culture is what I would like them to have," she says.

Being mindful of the community is part of the Castañeda legacy. "Our mom and dad always told us to `give back to our community'," says the young Eunice. Although her passion is art, deep down inside Eunice always knew she would become a teacher. "We were all meant to be teachers," she adds playfully. The youngest Castañeda, Linda, is a ninth grade biology teacher in the Paramount district.

Over the next decade the state will need to find 300,000 people to take on the challenging but rewarding job of teaching California's children. It is a great time to become a teacher.

The California Center for Teaching Careers (CalTeach) is a one-stop information, recruitment and referral service for individuals considering or pursuing a teaching career. CalTeach, administered by the CSU Chancellor's Office, can be reached by phone at 1-(888)-CALTEACH, or via the Internet at www.calteach.com.

CalTeach also works closely with six newly developed teacher recruitment centers statewide. These centers are located in Sacramento, Tulare, San Bernadino, Los Angeles and San Diego. The teacher recruitment centers provide job placement assistance by part-nering with districts to ensure that teachers are placed in classrooms through a seamless and efficient hiring process. These centers can be reached through the CalTeach Advisor Helpline at 1-(888)-CALTEACH.

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