I was born and raised in Colombia, South America, until my family moved to Pasadena when I was 10 years old (fifth grade age!). I attended Madison Elementary and Marshall Fundamental - both Pasadena public schools. My family moved to Georgia during my junior year of high school, where I lived until I moved back to Pasadena for the beginning of my second year of college. I graduated from Cal State Northridge with a B.A. in Music Education. Later I received a multiple-subject CA Teaching Credential from Cal State Dominguez Hills. Finally, I also have an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.
I am musical by nature (though not outrageously talented) so this is one area I gladly incorporate into my classroom instruction. In fact, I have written a few educational songs to help my students learn content in science and social studies. Of course, I also write songs as it is my way of including one of my favorite hobbies into my time of teaching - music in general.
The beginning of my teaching career started with a one year stint in a special education classroom (about 7 severely handicapped middle schoolers). Though I learned a lot and grew to love this group of kids and their special needs, I felt a burning desire to teach regular education. Since then I have established myself as a fifth grade teacher, and this is now my 14th year in that grade. Fifth grade is a great school year to teach as all of the subjects excite me. Besides, there's something special about fifth grade for many people I talk to. It is the school year most people remember, and it's usually full of fond memories - unless they happened to have a nightmare teacher (I hopefully will not be that kind of teacher to your child!).
I have been happily married for 21 years and I still feel very young and full of energy! I have two children. My daughter will now be in 12th grade and my son in 10th grade. They both have been the product of a public school education and of McKinley in particular. My wife continues to volunteer her time at McKinley (helping me at home and in the classroom), and also substitute teaches pretty much exclusively here.
For my summer break, my family went camping at the beach (Carpinteria & Doheny), took a road trip to Seattle Washington for college and family visits, and took lots of local trips. I also went to a special Little Kids Rock Conference in Fort Collins, CO to sharpen my teaching skills in music. This trip was a real blessing and inspiration to do more with music with my classroom.
One major change this trip inspired is that I will be teaching "Modern Band" to my classroom during the school day, and no longer after school. This is a change in order to be able to impact more students (a class load of them) and to do even more musically. In fact, this year fifth grade will be doing rotations for music (Mr. Rojas), art (Ms. Gangi-Hall) and P.E. (Ms. Gwinn). This means I will see all students in fifth grade for a total of 1 hour per week (two 30-min sessions). With Modern Band, I will focus on one main instrument, the Ukulele which all students will learn, though we will also be working on rhythm for drumming. As students show mastery I will add some of them to learn guitar (@ 16), keyboard (@16), & drums (one electric and a regular one), Bass (2 bases). Some students who take it seriously will end up playing a few of these, and possibly all. Most may focus on one or two. It will all be based on motivation and willingness to practice regularly. We will bring all these instruments together to make a large modern band, or at times, a group of smaller modern bands. I know this is going to be a fruitful school year as students learn and practice their instruments and begin seeing the potential of all they can do with music.
Though teachers do have a nice long summer break, you have to remember that it is a much needed respite from the previous school year of teaching and time to get re-energized for the upcoming school year. Teachers are always on the go once the school year begins. The classroom calls for us to be on and fully engaged all day long, with many teachers even working through part of their recess and lunch breaks. Once they go home, the work is far from being done, with planning, grading and so many other things to get done. The summer for me is not just about these things (I certainly need a break come the end of the school year), but about reflecting and strategizing about how to make the next school year even better. I am coming back refreshed and ready to make this my best year yet. I am looking forward to what this year holds and to the new group of students who will be with me for this new school year!
Check out my family pictures below: