SBCC FACULTY AWARD OF THE MONTH
Roberto E. Robledo
Professor of English as a Second Language
I will start my 32nd year at SBCC in the fall
32 years in education
B.A. and M.A. in Spanish from California State University Long Beach, and a
B.A. in Ethnic Studies from California State University Northridge
Quotations from award nominator(s):
“Roberto has been a steady champion for ESL students over the years… Over and over on Roberto’s evaluations is the comment from his students that he holds them to high standards. The students respect him for this and he is often referred to by his former students in compositions as one of the best teachers they have ever had. He believes in their abilities and they excel to prove his belief is well-placed.”
Interview with Roberto:
Introductory comments: Considering the large number of hard working, dedicated and supportive instructors at Santa Barbara City College, and especially in the English as a Second Language Department, I felt honored but also embarrassed to have been the only faculty member in my department to be recognized by my colleagues. I consider myself only one of the many faculty members who are truly committed to second language community college students. I am also a faculty member who has never craved recognition, but I sincerely appreciate this recognition shown by the committee and my colleagues.
1. The first question posed about what teaching tip and counseling advice I would offer to other faculty is very appropriate since that is what most faculty members are on this campus-teachers and counselors. There are so many facets about teaching that are important, but I will just give my opinion about one as a teacher at a community college. The preparation, teaching and counseling that we do on a weekly basis in the classroom and in our offices is truly important even if at times we do not seem to be reaching all our students. A teacher’s role as a counselor can be so meaningful to students as they plan their semester to semester schedule and their future education; consequently, what advice and time we offer students is very important to them and does serve as a motivating tool that gives the students confidence. We should not underestimate those frequent questions students come to see us about in our offices or ask through e-mail contact. I am always elated and satisfied to see former beginning level English as a Second Language students step up to receive their certificates or degrees on graduation day.
2. I can’t really categorize what I have to say as “Words of Wisdom” since I am still learning about teaching. I believe that teaching at a community college requires some flexibility in adjusting that syllabus and content once we see with what skills students arrive, which clearly shows teachers where they should begin the teaching process or at least what to review. For some of our students, whether their first language is English or not, Santa Barbara City College might offer them the privilege of being the first in their family to attend college, or the opportunity of continuing their education when they are older. I feel my job is to attempt to assist as many students as possible to succeed in my classes and to begin each class based on where my students are in skill level, not where I would like them to be.
3. My jobs before obtaining my dream job at this community college were whatever enabled me to earn enough money to meet college expenses in the days before financial aid. Most of my jobs from age 14 to 28 were neither interesting nor career-track jobs. My long list of tedious jobs were at the following: a nursery, a grocery store, a gas station, a roofing factory, a warehouse, a cleaners, a mortuary, an aircraft company, an oil refinery, a children’s settlement house, a can company, the U.S. Navy Reserve, the U.S. Marine Corps, a university tutoring program, a social welfare agency, and as a community college and elementary school aide. I learned exactly what I did not want to do the rest of my life from all of these positions. After finishing my classes for an M.A. in Spanish, I applied to every community college in California, and I was fortunate in getting two interviews. I was on cloud nine when I received the short offer of employment from the personnel office at S.B.C.C.; I still often think about my good fortune as I walk up to my office each morning.
4. I would have to say that my most influential teachers were my parents in that they tried to teach about life-hard-work, respect, helping others and the value of an education. On the academic side, I was fortunate to have three male teachers take me under their motivating wings: Mr. James in elementary school, Mr. Alvaro Rodríguez in high school and Dr. Francisco Trinidad at the university. From each I learned a valuable lesson at a different age. Mr. James, the only man and African-American at my grammar school in Los Angeles, taught me to compete, how religion should not separate people and about equality during the many conversations when he took me aside. Mr. Rodriguez, a history teacher, taught me about caring for students, motivation and showed me how to get that college scholarship. I was very impressed about his caring rather than with the money. Dr. Trinidad from Madrid, Spain instilled in me an appreciation of Spanish language and literature beyond what I brought to the classroom from home. They all had something in common-they cared, took the time with students and were very supportive.
5. I would have to say that the most gratifying student comment comes from students who run up to you and say, “Mr. Robledo, do you remember me? You were my ESL teacher in level one in 1982. I graduated from City College, and I now have my B.A. from the university!” Usually I can’t place the face twenty years later, but their accomplishments stay with me through the years. Another comment I hear from students a few semesters after they have left my beginning grammar, reading or writing courses is, “I want you to know that when I was in your classes, you worked us so hard and expected so much, and sometimes I didn’t like that! But after I left your classes, I was glad you did that because working hard in classes is so important in getting ahead.” More generally, English as a Second Language students are very appreciative of Santa Barbara City College and their teachers, and thank teachers on a daily basis for the class that day. Since the early 1980s, the number of second language learners has increased dramatically laying to rest the myth that the current generation of immigrants does not want to learn English. Unfortunately, oftentimes the ESL Department has to turn away some students since classes are full.
6. In regard to hobbies and reading, let us just say I used to spend time doing them much more. Having gained more weight than I care to mention in the last seven years, I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer an exercise fanatic although three or four times a week, I make the effort. I usually tell my wonderful wife, Maria Clara, that I am an avid reader but only have time to read level one and two ESL student papers. Like many people, I also have those three boxes of new books that I have collected in the last twenty years that I will get to some day. Reading has taken a real back burner for a very rewarding reason. Five years ago two young nephews, Oscar and Damian, now seven and ten, came into our lives and our world was changed positively forever. Let us say that my reading also revolves around second and fifth grade reading material. Perhaps I will get to those new books when the boys graduate from grammar school.
7. What I truly enjoy about my job centers on the accomplishments and challenges of my department. Whatever accomplishments we have realized has been the result of a group effort by departmental colleagues; whatever challenges we have faced we have usually sorted out together whether in agreement or not. What I still enjoy the most about my dream job is two-fold. A truly enjoyable part of my job is spending time with my colleagues whether the conversation is professional or more social. When the day is not going well or the lesson has been less than successful, there is always a colleague ready to lift my spirits. Equally enjoyable is seeing second language learners, whose lives are so very difficult at times, accomplish so much by realizing their personal and educational goals. Students come to us with varied goals, which are all so important and personal to them. I need to respect what their goals are but also mention other possibilities to them. The number of former ESL students who have received a degree and transferred to a university continues to grow; however, transferring to a university, as important as that is, is not the only measure of success for students or for Santa Barbara City College. One of our former ESL students from the 1980s received a degree from S.B.C.C. in auto mechanics, enjoys what he does and earns much more than any professor at this college. Another former level one ESL student studied with us for several semesters and just opened a very successful Mexican restaurant downtown and recently told me that he is about to open another restaurant in Montecito. He realized his goal after learning English and is also truly successful. In short, “my accomplishments” seems very foreign to me since my department has helped students be successful through a collective effort, and whatever successes our students realize are also the department’s successes. There are few things more satisfying and pleasurable for me than seeing a student progress, learn and move on. The daily contact with my colleagues and watching students learn is what I truly value about my job.