Educators nationwide share their passion and concern for aspiring American students

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by Félix Pérez

Montserrat Garibay’s passion for the success and well-being of her students is shared by educators in school houses and college campuses across the nation. Garibay, a pre-K teacher in Austin, Texas, differs from most educators in one respect, though: she identifies personally with students who were brought to the United States by their parents and who live in constant fear that they and their families will be uprooted.

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For Garibay, a National Board Certified teacher, her long-time advocacy for aspiring American students is her way of giving back the guidance and sense of safety she received from a “really amazing teacher who helped me” through middle school and high school.

As an educator, it’s my civic duty and professional belief that students need all the tools available to become successful no matter where they come from, the color of their skin or who their parents are, said Garibay on a telephone town hall discussion this Wednesday with more than 4,200 educators.

Montserrat Garibay
            Montserrat Garibay

Garibay and her younger sister were brought by their mother to the United States when she was 11 to escape an abusive father. She became a U.S. citizen last fall.

Gaby Pacheco, a Florida DREAMer who put a teaching career on hold because of her legal status, used the town hall to thank the educators who encouraged her to stop being “ashamed and afraid.” Her advice to educators: “Let your students know they’re not alone. To them you will be a protector. You don’t have to know the intricacies of immigration law.”

Another DREAMer, “Akiko,” from California, was brought by her family from the Philippines when she was 10. She related how as a child she learned to “become friends with fear and anxiety.”

Akiko said an educator’s concern for a student can make all the difference. “It’s because of my counselor that I am a nursing student. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for educators.”

Lily Eskelsen, former Utah Teacher of the Year and vice president of the National Education Association, encouraged the educators on the call to be “the voice of so many students and so many families.” She added, “Think about the student who desperately needs Congress to get this right. This is our moment. As educators, we want comprehensive immigration reform. We can make this right.”

Want to lend your voice on behalf of students for comprehensive and common sense immigration reform? Here are some resources:

  • Guide for Teachers Helping DREAMers: A six-page guide for educators who teach DREAMers. The easy-to-read guide offers educators suggestions on how they can help DREAMers and where they can get support.
  • We Own the Dream: An online interview tool designed to let DREAMers learn if they are eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Eligible DREAMers can complete and print out the application form.
  • Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students: This document by the College Board offers detailed, state-by-state information on higher education admission policies,  financial aid and scholarships, as well as on support organizations.

Reader Comments

  1. I met her when she was 14, she looked like a Mayan princess – dark eyes, olive skin, high cheekbones and an expression on her face that told me that she was determined. i learned that 4 days earlier she had been reunited with her mother for the first time in 11 years. her mother and father headed north from a war torn el salvador to make money to send back to the 2 children; Rosa who was 3 at the time and a newborn baby. the father was shot and killed in East Palo Alto 6 years later and his embalmed face was the only memory she had of him. she resolved at 12 y.o. that she would be reunited with her mother – and two years later, after a 3 month journey by foot, train and bus – faced with dangers no one, especially a child should go through, she achieved her goal. she was left by a coyote at the border, in the desert — IN THE SUMMER, she didn’t think she would make it, but she was reunited with her mother, who was a stranger for all intent and purpose. she told me that she wanted to be a poet and teach Spanish, so, i took her under my wing and bought her books of poets that i thought would inspire her — she became very depressed but we never gave up on her. she graduated from high school, went on to UC Santa Cruz and is now preparing herself to be a Spanish teacher and is an teacher intern in San Francisco. Rosa, Rosita, will inspire and touch many lives with her story and her great spirit.

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