Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017
Life Before TC:
In many ways, Marcos Espino Cervantes has lived the American dream. His father, born to a humble family in a simple adobe home in the state of Michoacán in Mexico, came to California to work the fields alongside the thousands of other immigrants who crossed the border in search of a better life. With the help of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 – Reagan-era legislation that granted legal status to many seasonal farmworkers – Marcos’ father was able to get a coveted “green card” and apply to bring his wife and four children legally to the United States. Arriving at the age of seven, Marcos attended public schools in the then-low income Mission District of San Francisco – at the time, a predominantly low-income neighborhood, but where he got a solid education that would change his life. “I experienced, firsthand, challenges to educational access like economic hardship and language barriers,” Marcos writes in a personal statement. “When I went to school my parents worked long hours to put food on the table. It was in a bilingual program that I began to learn to read and write in both Spanish and English. Learning to read and write in both languages helped me open many doors.”
Marcos became the first person in his family to earn a college degree, graduating from San Francisco State University. For him, the American dream was not about becoming rich and famous, but instead to open educational doors for others. He began working in an after school program in San Francisco, and eventually became a fifth grade teacher in bilingual education. Along the way, he got married, and when his wife began doctoral studies in linguistic anthropology at NYU, he found himself in New York City, navigating the tricky process of getting the state to accept his California teaching certification. He enrolled at TC at his part of his efforts to obtain full professional certification in Bilingual and Bicultural Education.
Marcos says his prior exposure to bilingual education prepares him well for his coursework at TC. “I grew a lot in the process,” he says. “I find that the faculty are very helpful, they’re always looking for ways to push us and get more exposure to new ideas.” TC also helped confirm for him that the classroom is where he wants to be. “It’s important for me to do this because it’s who I am,” he says. “There are millions of children just like me who came here without speaking the language, whom I want to support, and whom I want to instill with the idea that they can make it, that they can come to a school of higher education and become successful. The best way for me to do that is to go back to the community I grew up in and be a good role model.”
Marcos will be doing just that this fall, returning to San Francisco, where he already has a position lined up teaching seventh grade Spanish Language Arts/Social Studies in the Mission District. “Even though the pay is not that great, I think I’ll manage,” he says with a smile. “I’m not looking to be a millionaire. I have humble beginnings, and I want to stay within that. I think being critical of the system and institutional biases is important. I am not a passive person; I’m very proactive. I question things, and I want to instill that in children, to have them question why their communities are the way they are, and to be agents of change. The way I do that is by being an agent of change myself.”
– Ellen Livingston
Originally published Tuesday, May. 24, 2016 in the Teachers College Newsroom.