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November 28, 2022

Juan Carlos Pozo: Plant a seed for others to harvest

By JUAN CARLOS POZO

This is an open letter to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board, and an invitation to the community to support educators at the next board meeting, Sept. 13.

We represent the teachers of the Pajaro Valley school district and that’s exactly who we are. We love our profession, which is also our way of life. We feed the school and the school feeds us.

As teachers we have an essential mission far above the cliché of teaching the concepts within our subject matter, which, although important, in many ways and with some exceptions are condemned to the cemetery of disinterest and forgetfulness. The teacher’s mission always transcends the subject; the formation of a student carries infinite possibilities as well as our tasks do.

In other words, this vital and bottomless goal of the educator is to form students’ own faces and true hearts; to open for them an alternative panorama to the social ills with our conviction; the idea that we can always create an intelligent, respectful and peaceful society together. Since I have taught at Watsonville High for more than 20 years, my goal and that of my colleagues around me has always been the same: to contribute greatly to the student’s intellectual and spiritual development; in the end, they will become those who drive the community forward.

And that is what has happened.

Anybody who lives in the community can see the fruit of this work. Teachers of this district, we have a very long line of impeccable citizens, ready to shake our hands with a smile of gratitude and affection on their faces. They are ready to contribute and give back in benefit to their society. We do not come to this profession to enrich ourselves, but because we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of the students; we understand the important help they need and we assume our role in building a better society. A great number of experienced teachers have stayed in the same school because we have found in teaching this population our purpose in life; but certainly not for being fairly compensated. That fact alone talks volumes about dedication. Can we put a price on that? Of course not.

But, what is just is right. And here is our petition:

We only want what is fair.

In the current situation that we find ourselves, no matter what arguments are put into the negotiations, everyone, on any side, must recognize that the balance between our work and our salary is simply not fair. However you would like to measure; our contribution to this community has been severely financially undervalued. It is one thing going happily in the classroom to light up students’ ideas and another thing is not having any idea how are we going to pay for the light. I would certainly understand any teacher who doesn’t perform his/her best because they are worried about how to come up with paying the bills and supporting their families. This is our reality. Literally, life is accelerating and we are getting way behind.

Simply put: We cannot afford it any more.

I, for instance, besides high school, have been working in adult education for more than 15 years and I am already at the top of the pay scale, which … well, I do not want to compare it with anything or anyone, but let’s just say it’s a mockery of my profession, especially after such a long period of time. Teachers work two jobs, do tutorials, teach in summer schools, search for extending learning opportunities, assume extra leaderships jobs, etc., (I have worked through all of those) and we cannot arrive safely to the end of the month. We sacrificed so much time away from our families in order to make ends meet. We must recognize that the time has come to make this urgent petition a reality.

Ladies and gentlemen of the board, as teachers, we recognize that we are very fortunate in the sense that we share the same profession, ideas and objectives of the great motivators of the intellect of all times. We share Voltaire’s sense of social justice, Einstein’s desire to inculcate curiosity and perseverance; we share Freire’s spirit that helps us rediscover ourselves in the freedom of our student’s learning process; and we strive to build on their truthful hearts, by following the legacy of Dr. King and José Vasconcelos whose vision was to make universal the idea that it is the spirit which speaks for us, not the color of our skin.

Nevertheless, today, that it is so necessary to make virtue fashionable and grit its fuel, the task of educating becomes more important than ever. It is vital also for the quality of education, to keep an eye on the balance and understand that our salary needs to improve significantly. We are asking you and the community to support us, educators, for what is only fair: A decent living wage for teachers who time after time have proven effective in building an intelligent, respectful, and peaceful society. It is just fair to give the drivers who make this possible, a better standard of living. We have always been committed to the community and to the students. And I think we teachers, the community and our students deserve it.

•••

Juan Carlos Pozo is a teacher at Watsonville High School. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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