San Jacinto College Jacinto college preparatory reading and writing professor Myrna Gonzalez says America has great opportunities to celebrate cultural diversity and learn from one another. Photo by Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing department.
Faculty spotlight: college preparatory professor Gonzalez says cultural diversity enriches education
Rob Vanya, September 26, 2012
Question: What is your personal teaching philosophy?
Myrna Gonzalez: I believe learning must be meaningful and there is more to effective learning than just teaching concepts and curriculum. I encourage students to be lifelong learners, always exploring and learning, not just at school. I get to know students personally and let each one know I believe in them. I try to give each one a sense of importance, especially those who seem to have low self-esteem.
Q: This is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and San Jacinto College has a rich history of cultural diversity, with students attending from all over the world. Why is it beneficial for people of all backgrounds to lay aside prejudice and celebrate our diversity?
A: America has always been a melting pot with a rich mixture of different nationalities and cultures. Why should we not all want to learn from other cultures? We should not label each other, because preconceived notions can be wrong. In this nation we have such a great opportunity to celebrate all of our different cultures and learn from one another.
Q: The high school dropout rate among Latino young people ranks higher nationally than most other ethnic groups (although there has been improvement in recent years). As an educator of Latino nationality, how do you feel about that, and what is contributing to the problem?
A: The high dropout rate makes me sad because America is a land of opportunity and it is unfortunate to see many Hispanic young people not taking advantage of opportunities to pursue education. I have heard it said that Latino parents do not really care if their sons or daughters attend college, but I can tell you as one who knows the Latino culture that such a notion is a myth. They want their kids to attend college, but there are two hurdles that often stand in the way – lack of knowledge and lack of role models. The parents, and their children, (many who are from a poor background) often cannot figure out the steps for attending college -- registration, applying for financial aid, applying for scholarships, etc. And there are not enough role models who stress the importance of education. When I was a girl growing up in Mexico, I dreamed of attending college largely because my older siblings attended college and they were my role models.
Q: So, you feel it is imperative for Latino young people to pursue a college education?
A: Yes, and for good reason. It is now estimated that Latinos make up about 36 percent of the population in Texas, so it’s not hard to see what the future could hold for this state. There could definitely be a big shortage in the area of a well-trained skilled workforce.
Q: Why are the efforts of San Jacinto College in the area of college preparatory (developmental) education so important?
A: Our division works with students who are not college ready in certain areas and we have the critical task of rapidly helping them to succeed on the college level. We stress what we term “hard” skills, like teaching reading comprehension, writing, and math, but we also emphasize “soft” skills. That’s why our college prep courses have components that teach the importance of things like time management, teamwork, responsibility, and cooperation. I feel a student should strive for success in all areas of life, not just in college courses.
Myrna Gonzalez holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and a master’s in education from Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She is certified as a Developmental Education Specialist by the Kellogg Institute at Appalachian State University. She joined San Jacinto College in 2003 and has served as a reading instructor, and served as the Reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages department chair at the North Campus. She currently teaches developmental integrated reading and writing and a student success course in the College’s preparatory division. San Jacinto College offers college preparatory courses at all three campuses.
A video excerpt of the interview with Gonzalez is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U20DDsBDImI
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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