My family’s history in New Mexico stretches back eight generations, before New Mexico was even a state. We are proud of our unique history and heritage. We recall, however, that it was just one generation ago when teachers hit my parents on their hands with a ruler as a punishment for speaking Spanish—their native tongue—in class. From hearing the awful things teachers and other students said to them and from their experience of being tracked into classes like home economics and shop, school wasn’t a place where my parents felt valued.
Unlike my parents, my experience in school was quite different. Teachers told me early on that I was smart. Later on, I enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, and I had no doubt in mind I was bound for college. A combination of factors led to this confidence, including my parents’ unwavering support for me in school and teachers whose encouragement and faith in me meant the world to me. Still, I have to wonder: would my experience have been the same if I had an accent or if were categorized as an English language learner, like my parents?