We All Have One Mission
Director/Chief Technology Officer - Oxnard Union High School District
As an educator I am always in awe of how effortless it is for us to come together as an education community to support our students and families. Whether you work in K-12, Higher Education or for the Ventura County Office of Education, we all have the same mission. To serve our students.
During our most recent VCLA session (Session 6) Cohort XXVIII had the privilege of listening to Dr. Joe Mendoza who is the Director of Special Populations for the Educational Support Department for the Ventura County Office of Education. Dr. Mendoza has seen a lot in his 90 years, as he talked about what it was like to be a student in Oxnard in the 1930’s and 1940’s. His ability to tell his story was incredibly impactful as he shared with us the segregation that existed in Oxnard during that time between the Mexicans and the Americans. He also discussed the various forms of racism that existed in Oxnard at that time and how teachers in schools would dismiss culture and instead identify students by their “American” name. One of my biggest takeaways from his story was the impact this had on him as a child and a young man and how his experiences have played such an integral role in influencing the revolution of the education space. I have seen Dr. Mendoza speak many times, and although his talk on how culture influences education is similar each time, it is never the same. He always changes it just a bit to ensure that if you heard it before, you will never hear it the same way again.
The next two groups that spoke were my incredible Oxnard Union colleagues and the Higher Education Panel. The K-12 panel consisted of six educators that are especially close to my heart. The panel included our Superintendent, Director of Nutritional Services, two Principals, one Teacher Librarian and a Student. During the panel, the discussion focused on what we do here in Oxnard Union to support our students and families every day. The themes throughout both panels echoed that we are all passionate about students, which means plainly, we just care. As a whole, our systems are built for students to fail and as educators we are consistently fighting the system for the sake of our students. Other recurring themes were that boys and mental health have become more prevalent since Covid. We cannot hire folks fast enough to meet our students’ mental health needs. In the last two years, Oxnard Union has made mental health a top priority by opening a Wellness Center at every one of our sites as well as employing a Student Wellness Specialist at each one. Students are encouraged to visit our Wellness Centers whether it be once, or for regular check ins. In Higher Ed one of the most impactful statements shared by Dr. Cobian was that “we have to get it right if we want to stay relevant” and “we need to be prepared to receive the non-traditional student” meaning the student who goes back to school at 30 or 40 years old or even the student who has no desire to transfer to a four year college. It is not always about the transfer. These are the big A HA moments for our higher education folks and I think they are spot on.
Both discussions were amazing and impactful, but the discussion with my K-12 colleagues was incredibly heartfelt. The last few years have been incredibly trying for our teachers, students, parents and administrators in the K-12 space, but I can honestly say, being a K-12 educator is incredibly rewarding and I would not trade it for anything. Whether it be ensuring our students have a proper meal, a Chromebook and/or a hotspot to complete classwork or connect with friends, making sure they get mental health support, relying on a trusted adult like a teacher or Principal or attending the Superintendent’s Council to voice a concern, our students have strong voices and play a larger role in influencing the current culture in education.
Students are self advocating more than they ever have before and that speaks volumes. Our students are not afraid to advocate for themselves and others. We have come a long way, but yet we still have a way to go. I am honored to be a part of the VCLA experience and learned so much during this session and am so grateful I was able to share what I get to do every day with my fellow Cohort members.
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