By Mario A. Cortez
Few people know the ins and outs of the education system like Oscar Medina. For over 20 years, and starting in his own classroom, Medina has been striving to improve the level of education which children receive.
“I taught at Castle Park High School in 1996. As a teacher there, I got involved in committees related to the district, the curriculum, selection of tests, and how to ensure that students are prepared for the future,” Medina said to La Prensa San Diego.
During his tenure as a teacher at Castle Park High, a series of international studies which highlight the focus and practices used in the most academically developed countries had been published. These studies showed that schools in the United States were going in the opposite direction as the leading nations. This is when Medina saw an opportunity to become active in education outside of his class.
“The state board developed a very different plan of study to turn things around. I became involved in various committees at the district level and at the county level and have been an education activist since,” Medina shared.
A year later, Medina found himself becoming more involved in education after California Proposition 227, which would have eliminated bilingual education throughout the state.
“I am someone who has always believed very strongly in bilingual education and the benefits it brings in cognitive advantages and academic performance. So I became even more involved in matters of activism and learned from various state and federal education laws,” Medina explained.
Shortly after Prop 227’s election cycle in 1998, Oscar went on to a state post monitoring to ensure that school districts comply with their legal duties and making sure that the educational duties of schools were being carried out.
“At the state post, I learned what parts of a complete education system can give the best academic performance to students focusing on English learning,” Medina said.
After two years, the State superintendent eliminated the unit Medina was working as a monitor for. While many of medina’s peers returned to their regular jobs, the San Diego County Office of Education made Oscar an offer to provide leadership to the 42 school districts through the Office.
“By pure chance at the time San Diego County had to undergo State inspections which were done every four years at the time. I assisted districts with what state agents were looking for,” Medina elaborated. “A South Bay Union School District principal wanted to take the inspection very seriously so she requested an inspection from me before her state inspection, she made immediate changes after I finished. After that, the whole district was evaluated as flawless. We didn’t have to lie or hide anything, we just had to be prepared.”
From there, Medina earned a reputation as someone who is an expert on school programs, which lead him to work with larger districts such as San Diego Unified. Medina has also been in charge of programs such as Director of Language Acquisition at for the Sweetwater Union High School District, has worked as an education consultant, and was even Principal at Southwest Middle School.
But after being involved in so many unique and vital programs and organizations, Medina has stepped back into the classroom as a teacher at Castle Park Middle School, an experience which has been challenging but very rewarding.
“Now that I’m back in the classroom I have another opportunity to be with the kids”, Medina stated although the students themselves can be a challenge; they are going through things like hormonal changes and can be a handful in terms of their level of focus, their discipline, and their sense of self, which unfortunately leads to acting out in the classroom.”
“But you try to be mindful of the situation”, Medina elaborated. “Castle Park Middle School is in a community with a certain level of poverty, so you try have in mind the repercussions of living in poverty such as stress and issues at home. But I love the kids and I love being with them.”
Medina closed our interview by speaking about why teaching is the most important job in the world to him.
“There was a class I took while I attended university where we spoke about the perfect society. In one class we discussed how Plato shared that the role of the philosopher king was the most important job role. But nowadays no one can be king, so the most important job role is the teacher because they educate the youth, prepare them and they ensure the future,” Medina explained. “I saw the opportunity to do the greatest good to the community as an educator and that’s why I am still an educator, so I can do the greatest good.”