What does it mean to advocate for public education? It means being able to advocate not for the benefit of yourself but for others. My father left me when I was two and my mother removed me from my home at the age of twelve. Since then I moved from home to home trying to salvage what was left of my childhood but entering adulthood at lighting speed. I have been working since the age of sixteen and was the first to graduate from college from a family of six siblings. Many made bets that I would end up pregnant or a drop out. I love it when someone tells me I can’t do something.
In later years and deep reflection I realize it comes natural almost innate for me to fight for our schools. This was and is my home. All of the staff raised me for better or worse but mostly for the better. I do not take kindly to outsiders attacking my family or home. I speak for the underdog in almost any situation and especially those that lack the knowledge of their rights.
An education is a civil right that all students and parents must have access to in our lifetime. Teaching goes beyond the classroom but has become a civil responsibility that many of us are brave enough to accept the challenge.
Whether it’s advocating for our ladies, our English Learners, our Black students, our LGBTQ Plus, Muslim, or our Dreamers many of us fight to make sure they are loved and learn at the same time. We often fail and trust me I have failed. There are nights I cannot sleep thinking of whom I didn’t reach and then you receive a loving message from a former student that changes those failing moments. Students that have died to students that became amazing adults. Each student no matter the experience takes a piece of me with them. Each year I wonder how much more can I give and I continue to give because there are always those students that refill us unintentionally.
My own two boys have their failing moments and moments that changed their lives because of our Sweetwater staff. Yet, they and I know it’s about forgiveness and love that nurture the love we have here in our district. We harm ourselves and others to allow any trauma or hold on to resentment to cripple personal or academic/professional growth. My boys and I are honored to be a part of Sweetwater and we all know that in order to seek social justice for our communities it must be in becoming activists. We all plan to protect public education because we believe it is a civil right everyone should experience.
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” King said in a speech near the Washington Monument in 1968, on the dangers of neglecting important social issues.
Gretel Rodriguez grew up in Los Angeles and attended SDSU for her bachelors and credential. She earned a Masters in Education Technology and has taught in the district for fifteen years. She specializes in working with English Language Development students and mainstream English Learners. She is a full time advocate for public education and raising two boys.