In May José Alfredo Guerrero, program coordinator for the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline at the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) was invited to deliver the keynote address to the eighth grade graduating class at Madero Middle School.
Madero Middle School is located in Chicago’s Little Village, also known as La Villita, a largely Mexican-American populated part of the city where Guerrero grew up. Madero also happens to be where he himself attended school and graduated eighth grade in 2002. CTEP works with five partner neighborhoods in its efforts to support and foster resilient and effective Chicago Public School teachers through the pipeline. Little Village and Madero Middle are both partners in that work.
Below is reflection of Guerrero’s experience and what it meant to him:
As a former Madero Eagle it was an honor to be asked to address the graduating class. Having grown up in Little Village and having attended McCormick Elementary and then Madero Middle School, it moved me and gave me a wonderful opportunity for reflection. I wanted to do the address justice, not only for the students, but for the families as well. There were many times throughout my childhood when my parents sat in an audience of hundreds to watch me sing or act, not understanding a single word that was said, but being proud nonetheless. It was important to me that the families sitting in the audience understood me, laughed with me, and celebrated their graduating children with me.
In our work with future teachers we often remind our candidates to value and uplift their students’ and families knowledge and voices as the core of their learning experience, and in many ways, that is what I wanted to do with my address—to uplift and center their knowledge through our shared lived experiences in language, community, and music. I wanted to remind the students and families of the value their stories hold by sharing what I learned from my upbringing in Little Village, and how it now informs my work and my success as an educator, musician, and community member. Not only was this a great opportunity to remind the students of the strengths they possess and what they have to look forward to, but it also served as an opportunity to congratulate those who support the students’ efforts and goals once they are home.
Being a part of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline team has given me the opportunity to work closely and alongside those community folk in Little Village and Pilsen to create change within our communities through education, and it is easy to forget just how special it is that we get to do what we do and I hope to never take it for granted.
Guerrero works with faculty and staff in planning clinical visits to Chicago each semester and in designing and teaching seminars to teacher candidates who are student teaching in Chicago.