By Natalie Jiménez
The Mexican American Educators and Spanish Teachers Organization (MAESTRO) will host an award ceremony on May 26 to honor students in the credential program who have contributed to the Latino community and the mathematics, science, and Spanish fields.
The MAESTRO program was founded in the fall of 2015 by professor and member of the Department of Secondary Education on campus, Alfonso Nava.
“[MAESTRO] started as a teacher organization but has developed into a networking teacher organization for people in the secondary education department,” Nava said. “We want to be informative and be a network for teachers so they know what to do when they graduate from CSUN.”
In addition to being a helping hand to those in the credential program, the organization wants to recognize individuals that are dedicated to the academic excellence, leadership, and service in the Latino community in hopes of increasing the acknowledgment of Latino presence in American society. One way they hope to do this is by holding the award ceremony in May to commemorate individuals on campus who made a contribution to the math, science and Spanish fields.
“We as Latinos can still be underrepresented in these fields,” said Monica Garcia, an executive board member of the program and assistant professor of Secondary Education Department. “By bringing focus to these awards we can begin to change the narrative that [Latino/as] are not present within these fields.”
Due to the organization being in its first stages, there are only three awards being given out as of now: the Vincent L. Rodriguez Excellence in Science Award for Teaching, the Dr. Elias Ramos Excellence in Teaching Spanish Award and the Jaime Escalante Outstanding Math Teacher Award.
The awards were named in recognition of individuals who made significant contributions to the Latino community in each given field. Nava explained why these specific individuals were chosen: Rodriguez was the inventor of the helicopter in 1913, Ramos was the chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature at CSUN and contributed to academic projects Nava has done in the past, and Escalante started an advanced mathematics program that allowed his students to prosper in math.
“We are trying to award student teachers for their work especially in regards to helping make the criteria relevant to their students,” said David Diaz, one of the founding student members of the program and a CSUN junior majoring in English. “The student population is so diverse and we want to spread the word about integrating minorities into their curriculum.”
Those in the running for the awards have until May 5, 2016, to submit their applications. From then, Nava and Garcia will review the applications and decide who the winners of each category will be.
As the first National Teacher Honor Society of Latinos within the U.S., this organization hopes to expand, recognize the excellent work of Latinos within academics and continue with their work in Mexico.
This upcoming fall, the program is planning to display pictures of inventions Latinos have done in the past at the Oviatt Library to promote the notion of Latino presence in American society. Further along the line, MAESTRO will create a networking blog on their site to encourage communication for teachers and students. MAESTRO also hopes to continue their work in Mexico through their Familias Para Niños and El Sauzal Orphanage programs dedicated to giving back to Mexican children in need.
“[MAESTRO] wants to build and recognize students who have excelled and shown compassion in their work,” said Blanca Aurora Montes, a mentor within the program and a Spanish-single-subject credential student. “We want to change the perception that Latinos are professionals and intellectuals too.”