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Juan Perales

My parents are both from Laredo, but my father is from Mexico and my
mother is from Texas. The border that separated them has influenced a lot of my
life. My dad is one of eight. His family built their house out of mud originally and
gradually improved it as they could. His work ethic is strong; he always does what
he needs to improve the lives of his family. My mom is one of six, and she grew up
in a household full of trauma and instability. However, both of my parents have
strived to create an open and caring environment for my family to grow in. My
mom dropped out of school in 8th grade to have my oldest brother David and moved
to California to raise him and had another child there. It was after that when she
smuggled my dad from Mexico as an undocumented worker. This was a difficult and
dangerous process, but they both risked the consequences for love and to build a
family. While my brothers are technically my half-brothers, I have always
considered them to just be my brothers. My sister was born in San Antonio, and I
was born three years later. I have always been surrounded by a large family, and
that now includes my ten nieces and nephews.

Work and a promise of housing brought us to Minnesota when I was four. The
trailer that we moved into was originally unlivable, but we cleared it to make a
home. We moved from Lake City, to Altura, to Utica, and finally to Blooming Prairie.
Most of the people in my trailer park community looked like me as MexicanAmericans and immigrants, which was unique to a small, rural town. When I started
kindergarten in Blooming Prairie Schools, I noticed the difference between where I
was living and the racial demographics of where I was going to school. My home

was always the most welcoming; everyone from the neighborhood was made to feel
at home and fed, even if they werent hungry!

Being a Mexican-American who grew up in a predominantly white society,

sometimes I feel like an outsider even amongst my people. Aside from my
immediate family and their children, I have not had many (or any) opportunities to
meet many of my relatives. They are heavily involved in gang activity, which adds
to the stereotypes that the dominant society holds about my community. A few of
my cousins in San Antonio are also first generation college students.
I was comfortable making friends with my classmates at school and could
adapt to the dominant, white society. Having grown up in the Midwest, I didnt have
a Tejano accent and being fairly light skinned, it gave me a sense of racial
ambiguity. This ambiguity, however, has allowed for me to blend in and adapt to
any number of situations.
In elementary, my grades were good. But once I got to high school, outside
pressures and violence affected the way I could perform. My GPA failed to reflect
my abilities and personal interest. I would frequently surprise people with my good
test scores, mostly due to my own innate abilities and not by what my teachers told
me I could do. In that environment, I failed to thrive. I never had a backpack, never
brought homework home, or did the assignments. But I paid attention in class and
did well through participation. I only managed to graduate with a 1.89 GPA.
Knowing what I know now of education, intervention strategies, and the need for
support systems, I now recognize the shortcomings and lack of accommodations for
a student like myself in a district with limited resources. Now, being equipped with

supportive instructors and my own recognition that I have the strength necessary to
persevere I am able to create new approaches to learning for students like myself.
I never had any thoughts of going to a prestigious college due to my grades.
My high school counselor discouraged me from any educational paths I expressed
interest in. She told me I was not capable and didnt have the grades to pursue my
passion. She urged me to be more realistic. I have come to realize that capability
does not equal good grades alone. I felt this behavior to be grossly unprofessional
and inappropriate for someone in such an impactful position in education.
In college, the onus of the financial burden was on me, and I made myself
personally accountable for my work. The structure of college reflected my preferred
learning style: I created my own consistency and independence of my work. College
exposed me to individuals like myself. Riverland Community College didnt have the
homogeneity of the towns I had grown up in. My 4.0 at WSU shows how invested I
am in the program and how I want it to be successful. This program has opened up
new opportunities to grow as an educator. I want to pursue the Graduate Induction
Program masters degree after graduating this spring to build on the momentum I
have generated and to become the best teacher I can be.
Much of my professional experience in the last five years has been in the
Austin Public Schools, where I have had the opportunity to grow after school
programs for young students. I could blend my own interests in yoga or beatboxing
to bring opportunities to my students that they might not otherwise have the
chance to experience. This has meant that I have been recognized for my
dedication to education through being asked to give speeches on my educational

experience. I am excited that this year, I was also asked to be the Robotics coach
for Sumner Elementary School.
This is important to me because I am often described as the science guy of
my friend groups. Im a doer. Im a hands-on guy. I want students to ask questions
to help them get a grasp of concepts that they may not understand from a teacher
just lecturing from the front of the room. I want to put the students in the drivers
seat. I want them to have learning experiences that are going to stick with them. I
see huge potential in STEAM-based learning environments and curriculum.
I want to be a teacher because I see such a disproportionate amount of
minority students failing to achieve their potential. The factors that cause these
students to fail to meet state and national standards at the rate of their white peers
is multi-faceted. But, as educators, we can truly make a difference. I want to give
these students a chance to succeed.
I want to be a role model. Until college, every single one of my teachers was
white. In the state of Minnesota, only 4% of educational professionals are diverse. I
want to be an inspiration by being in a place where you dont usually see people like
me as a young professional. I want to bridge the gap and be the change in the
classroom to have teachers reflect the make-up and come from similar backgrounds
as the students Ill serve. I want to use my English/Spanish bilingual skills to make
EL students feel included and valued. If we could give them the same test in their
own language, what would things look like? These kids can feel left out and in the
dark and not valued like their English-speaking peers. Sometimes the fact that their
English skills arent on the same level makes them hesitant to speak at all and
share their valuable insight. I want to make them feel like they are valued the same

as any other student and that they arent going to be treated differently. I want to
be supportive and empathetic of the fact that theyre in a different country under
uncontrollable circumstances. Negative experiences can only add to the trauma of
such life-changing events.
I came from a background where my family didnt go to college, and I didnt
have the means to pay for it. One of my proudest achievements is overcoming
obstacles in school. The consistency and longevity Ive had to maintain in order to
get to school and stay in school is important. I am here to complete my
undergraduate degree a feat that is new to my family and many in my community.
I want to be an example and source of inspiration for the students who might
question the need to stay in school, or if it is worth reading that book or turning in
that piece of homework.
School is important because in our societal infrastructure, theres a make or
break factor that hinges upon whether someone has a certain level of education.
Today, you need a bare minimum of a high school education to be able to earn a
living wage. Educators have to start this engagement early in order for it to be
authentic. I want to emphasize this to kids, because in the cut-throat world we live
in, this is potentially going to be the reason they can make rent every month. Aside
from that, school not only teaches you the standards that have been agreed upon
by the power elites, but so much more. Youre not there just to score so high on a
standardized test, youre learning how to be social and interact professionally.
Youre learning how to be responsible and punctual, to develop a sense of
accountability and consistency. Youre exposed to diversity of thought and cultures,
and this will help you become a more informed and open-minded individual.

What excites me is seeing growth. LEP students and EL students with lower
skills can become a reader, a writer, and have a conversation. To see such stunning
personal and academic growth shows you how impactful a teachers work can be to
one student. I, myself, am an extremely demonstrative instructor. Inquisitive and
curious I want to impart the knowledge and skills I have to pretty much everyone I
meet. I see everything as an opportunity to teach and to learn, and I want to make
sure that all students are afforded the same opportunity.