MNPS Voices: Hispanic Heritage Month
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSTheir stories are as unique as they are, their journeys drawing on individual tales of resilience, drive and adventure. But the women and men we celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month – which is observed September 15 to October 15 – share a passion to teach, to serve, to help others find their way forward.
The MNPS employees we profile today represent just a small sampling of the district’s Hispanic or Latino administrators, teachers and support staff members. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about where they’ve come from, what they’ve achieved and what continues to inspire them day after day.
Sandra Hurtado, Program Supervisor, English Learners Office
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSSandra Hurtado is from Florencia, a small town in Caqueta, a department, or political subdivision, in southern Colombia. At 20, she married and moved with her husband to Bogota, the nation’s capital, where he served in a dangerous but successful job doing undercover work to infiltrate cartels. In the 1990s, when Hurtado’s daughter was only three, the family made the difficult decision to move to the United States for the hope of a safer life for their young family.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSFor years Hurtado worked just to survive – as a housekeeper, at a factory, whatever it took to help support her family’s new life. But her outlook on work changed when the MNPS English Learners Office gave her a chance.
“I remember them asking me if I thought I could do the job. I said yes, and after 45 minutes of deliberation they agreed I could do it,” she said. “That was a big day, June 7, 2004. I will never forget that day and always be grateful they gave me an opportunity.”
More than 16 years later, Hurtado is an integral part of the EL office as an International Student Registration Center Program Supervisor and an important part of many MNPS families’ lives. They never forget her patience and willingness to help them with the smallest tasks.
During her first years in the U.S., Hurtado remembers feeling scared to speak, afraid of the language barrier – an experience she uses to help parents feel comfortable. Hurtado connects her success to a simple willingness to help and listen, something we can all do better.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“Being bilingual is very helpful in my role, especially since so much of MNPS is Hispanic,” she said. “I love doing this job, and as long as I can continue to help families, this is what I want to do.”
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSHurtado’s children are now 24 and 10 – one born in Colombia and one in the United States – and she especially wants to help her young son learn about where his parents came from and stay connected to his heritage.
“I want him to feel proud about his roots,” Sandra said. “Although he was born here, Hispanic heritage is running through his veins, and I do not want him to be ashamed.”
Carlos R. Calderón-Díaz, Spanish 2/Honors Teacher, Hillsboro High School
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS Carlos R. Calderón-Díaz was born in Fajardo, a beautiful city on the east coast of Puerto Rico. In his childhood and youth years he had the opportunity to be part of the national swimming team. He studied art, biology, Spanish and French and earned a bachelor’s degree in education.
“My career as an educator began when I decided to join the Peace Corps as a marine biologist and teacher of a rural elementary school in one of the islands of the Philippine archipelago, Guimaras Island,” he said.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSFor 26 years, Calderón-Díaz worked as a K-12 STEM-Science teacher in Puerto Rico, STEM and Science Lead Teacher with New York Department of Education, Science-Spanish teacher with the Chicago Public School System, and high school principal at Puntacana International School in the Dominican Republic before moving to Nashville in 2016.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS “I accepted a position as STEM teacher at McMurray Middle School, then became a STEM Coordinator at Oliver Middle School, a Spanish Lead Teacher at KIPP Nashville, and currently I work as a Spanish teacher at Hillsboro High School,” he said.
For Calderón-Díaz, being a bilingual Hispanic person has opened important doors both personally and professionally.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“Speaking two languages facilitates my contributions to the community in general,” he said. “My wonderful EL students have given me the opportunity to guide, educate, support and transfer my cultural experience to them. In turn, this has helped me grow and realize myself as an individual capable of facing challenges and situations with greater understanding.
“I can live in two worlds. I understand both worlds. I learn from both worlds. Everyone I interact with benefits from this reality.”
Calderón-Díaz believes it is extremely important for every educator to be receptive to understanding that the Hispanic culture is remarkably different and the process of adaptation to a different cultural, social and economic system has consequences that can be challenging.
“Being objective is key, and preconceived notions of the culture must be left at home. It is imperative to understand the possible reactions of our Hispanic students, considering that it is and will be a challenge to learn another language. It is important that we enter the world of each of our students. It is our duty to differentiate the needs of each one of them and thus be able to transmit a message not only educational but also emotional for the future of empowered students, who are ready to achieve success.
“Even I, as a bilingual Latino teacher, had challenges with our recently arrived Spanish-speaking students. I took a deep breath and requested their cooperation, and that takes a lot of work. The result was beyond rewarding.”
Calderón-Díaz is a firm believer in the power of incentives for his students. He has created a special recognition called Outstanding Bilingual Student, which has allowed his students to feel rewarded for their effort, commitment and progress in their Spanish class.
“I have also started recruiting my students, all of them English-speaking students, and educate them in the development of a ‘Spanish Spelling Bee’ in partnership with school districts in Colorado and California,” he said. “We will begin to prepare my students locally and then expand the program at the regional level and reach the national ones in spring 2021. Stay tuned!”
Calderón-Diaz credits his success in part to the values of his rich, mixed heritage, and he hopes to inspire people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds for generations to come.
“I feel proud of my Central African, Spaniard, and Puerto Rican Taino Indian heritage,” he said. “This mixture of three powerful ethnicities is my pride, because with the passing of time, in my family, professional, educational and personal experiences, I have realized that I have the best of three continents of the world. I wish that my children, family, students and any individual who interacts with me understands I will share the values instilled by my culture because they are the fundamental key to continuous human development.”
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSIn his free time, Calderón-Díaz likes to create any kind of art, swim, ride the bike, read, cook, and travel, which he looks forward to getting back to at some point.
Adelina Winston, Secretary, Glencliff High School
Adelina Winston grew up in Laredo, Texas, as one of 11 siblings. In high school, she struggled to balance personal challenges with academics and ended up dropping out to pursue odd jobs.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSEventually, she found her way back to school to get her GED, because she knew that was how she could advance her career and ultimately move out of her hometown. In Nashville, Winston met her husband and continued to work various jobs until her son was school-aged and she found an interest in volunteering at MNPS.
“I got to see firsthand the need for bilingual people in schools, so I continued to volunteer and I began taking classes to further my education,” she said. “And I knew that God would bring me to the job where I was needed when it was time.”
Winston was right; the principal at her son’s school noticed her hard work and decided to bring her on as a staff member. She was excited to show English Learners families how to engage, volunteer and help their students succeed.
Winston works with a mission, remembering how her mom would shy away from school events because of the language barrier, feeling left out from the school community.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“Being Hispanic has taught me to use my gift of speaking two languages to the best of my ability to honor my mom,” Winston said. “She died last year, and everything I do for families will always be for her.”
Luis Del Rio, Parent Outreach Translator, Office of Translation and Interpretation Services
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSLuis Del Rio was born in Camagüey, Cuba, in a working class household. His mother was a principal/teacher at a rural school. His dad dropped out of school in the sixth grade to help Del Rio’s grandfather in his business. Del Rio started school when he was 4 years old and attended Catholic and private schools while in Cuba until the eighth grade.
Due to political turmoil, Del Rio decided to leave his homeland as a young man to escape Fidel Castro’s regime and pursue better opportunities. He attended a small Baptist school in Seymour, Tennessee, then moved to Nashville, enrolled at Belmont and graduated with a teaching certificate.
Having an Hispanic heritage has impacted Del Rio’s life in many ways, but he really believes the most important one is that he has been able to achieve a lot of things he never could have imagined, and he is able to share those with the people he works with almost every day.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSDel Rio’s journey as an educator started at MNPS, where he was a teacher for 30 years. Then he went to Trevecca Nazarene University as an adjunct professor and assistant in three sports for 15 years.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSAs the English learner population started to grow in MNPS, Del Rio saw an opportunity to return to the district to support families with English language limitations. In 2007 he accepted a position as a Parent Outreach Translator, which he still holds.
“My job consists in communicating with Spanish-speaking parents and helping them any way I can to understand the many ways MNPS tries to educate their children,” he said. “Every day I give thanks that I am able to help those in need, regardless of origin.”
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSDel Rio’s advice for fellow educators, particularly those who are starting to work with limited-English-proficiency students and/or their families, is that they need to try to understand that students who come from another country have been taught in other ways than the American way and they have to realize that it will take time.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“My suggestion would be to be flexible and understanding and continue to have open doors to help,” he said.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSDel Rio hopes that people of Hispanic descent like himself feel proud of their heritage, customs, language, food, and more and are ready to share with those who don't know, not only during Hispanic Heritage Month but throughout the year.
Beatriz Salgado, Assistant Principal, Hillsboro High School
Beatriz Salgado was born in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. She moved with her parents to the United States when she was about 2 years old.
Salgado is very proud of her Hispanic culture and background. She grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and really amazing food.
“Who could ask for more?” she said. “Everywhere I looked I saw a very strong work ethic and an ‘it takes a village” mindset. That has influenced my personal and professional life in that I want to be a part of the solution in my community – whether that is helping a neighbor in need or doing everything I can to make my school network a tight-knit community where people rely on each other and trust each other.”
The importance of education was consistently emphasized in Salgado’s family, and the message was clear: Education provides opportunities for a better life.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“Like all parents, my parents wanted my siblings and me to have an easier life than they did, and education would be key to that,” she said.
Salgado earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso, a master’s degree in school counseling from Middle Tennessee State University, and an administrative license from Lipscomb University.
This is Salgado’s 27th year in MNPS, where she is now an assistant principal at Hillsboro High School. Prior to becoming a school administrator, she was a school counselor for MNPS and a classroom teacher in El Paso, Texas. Among her accomplishments, she was one of 24 assistant principals in Tennessee selected in 2016 to participate in the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership fellowship, a one-year partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College.
And through her leadership, programs such as Pioneros, ESCALERA and 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee have partnered with the various schools she has led to provide leadership development and academic support for students.
Salgado is actively involved with ALAS, the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. She is also part of the Latino Education Coalition to ensure rigorous and high-quality instruction for Latino students in Nashville. Most recently, she has joined the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance to support the recruitment and retention of educators of color.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSOne of Salgado’s philosophies to succeed as an educator is that having a positive collaborative mindset is so important. It’s OK not to have the answers to everything.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“I am very fortunate to be a part of an outstanding team led by a brilliant visionary leader. Surround yourself by people who see your strengths and can leverage them,” she said.
“Students are students. Some work harder than others, but they all need our support to excel. The same can be said for families. The Latino families are hard workers and want to contribute positively to our community. They are embracing the American dream. Enjoy the little things in life. Appreciate all the silly moments with your students. Always remember you have the power to change a student’s life. Not many people can do that. Teachers are true superheroes.”
One thing about Salgado’s heritage she would like to pass down to the current and future generations is the power of resilience.
“No matter how many obstacles my parents faced – navigating the process to become U.S. citizens, to become homeowners and, at times, the ugliness of racism – the message to my siblings and me was ‘keep going,’ ” she said. “Life will always throw curveballs our way. Just look at where we are now? This is yet another storm we have to weather together, it is not the first or the last.”
In her spare time, Salgado enjoys gardening, reading, running, walking, cycling, and cooking.
Michel Sanchez, Principal, Cane Ridge High School
Michel Sanchez’s parents didn’t get the kinds of opportunities she got while growing up in Odessa, Texas. She could imagine her father becoming an engineer, her mother an interior designer, “if they had the chance.” But her father dropped out of school when he was 12 to go to work full-time, and her mother cleaned other people’s houses, both of them working well into their 70s.
By the time Sanchez became the first person in her family to graduate from college in the 1990s, it was easier to carve out a career. She’s spent that career working to help students see what’s possible – and what they need to do to achieve it.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“I was very fortunate that a teacher saw something in me when I was in elementary school,” Sanchez said. “From probably the third grade, I always had a positive experience with school. It wasn’t until my senior year, when I saw that other kids didn’t have positive experiences, that I thought, well, I’m going to be a teacher so kids in my class could have positive experiences.”
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSShe said some Spanish speakers feel they can get by without speaking English. But survival alone shouldn’t be the point.
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOS“Our goal, as educators, is in addition to just surviving, we want you to have all these other things available to you that are only available to you if you speak English,” Sanchez said. “It inspires me as an educator just to expand the knowledge and awareness of opportunities outside your known circle.”
Bắn Cá Hải Tặc iOSAt the same time, she’s excited to see more and more people embracing their heritage rather than simply assimilating. “That can put you at a different level,” she said. “I can speak to a lot more people because I speak Spanish.”
Sanchez, who is in her 12th year with MNPS and 11th at Cane Ridge, has always worked in school districts that use a career academies model, combining traditional high school coursework with career-oriented education. That’s been the norm in MNPS’s zoned high schools, including Cane Ridge, for about 15 years.
“It’s just showing students that upon going off to college, eventually you’re going to have to have a skill,” she said. “You have to be exposed to skill-based learning while you’re in high school.”
When she isn’t working, Sanchez loves reading mysteries and other fiction, running five or six days a week, and speaking frequently to her parents and siblings back in Texas.
“It’s weird to me that people don’t speak to their parents every day,” she said. “I speak to mine multiple times a day. In Latino culture, you’re just always surrounded by family.”