JUAN SEPULVEDA'S CLASS

[insert bio and quote here]

All oral histories are shared with the written permission of the narrator. Oral histories have been edited for length and clarity and to protect the narrator's privacy. 

“THAT’S WHAT A CORRIDO IS”: POCO A POCO

November 2019  / Interviewed by Jose

Gerardo is a twenty-four year old singer and songwriter who began at a very young age and has progressively gotten better over the years. With a passion for singing all his life, Gerardo performed for his father at age eleven and from that moment he knew performing was something he’d like to take seriously. He continues to sing and get better with his colleagues, because as he explains everybody in the music band has to work together in order to sound good and keep his crowd happy. Gerardo aims to not only perform, but to be known for his songwriting. 

How did you know you had a talent for singing? 

I always really did like singing and when I realized I actually wanted to go on stage and perform I remember it was a father's day and we threw a little party over here and basically, there was a little “bandita” playing and then I went up and sang, the first song I was “El Rango del Gallo Hiro.” It was a while back and then I was probably like eleven years old that was probably the first time ever I got on stage. 

What is the best memory you have because of music?

One of the best memories, I guess I don’t know man just like enjoying the whole experience of forming a group and knowing it’s not just you there’s other people that you got to look out for you know in order to sound good, you know you can’t just go from one day to another and sound good you got to find the right people. Just the connections man you get a lot of connections that’s one of the best things about it.

Where do you get your inspiration to write songs from?

Well just out of life man, out of life honestly just stuff that happens in life and stuff I’ve been going through in life you know there’s so many crazy experiences that you just don’t want to keep in your head you want to put to make a memory of it. Most of the things I write about are things that I’ve gone through in my life. I like writing corridos that are real. I don’t like fantasizing about them I guess you can say. I don’t like making up stories. I like writing about real stuff, to me that’s what a corridor is.

How did you make your group? How were you invited to it?

I had a buddy--his name was Andy. Him and I would always jam out man we would always just be jamming out and I guess you could say that “poco a poco” everybody just started coming at first it was just him and I and then next thing you know we pulled some guy over there from Los Mochis se llamaba Julian and he became our requintero he was really good and then just, later on, came some kid que se llamaba Ernald, Ernald came in with harmonia. Everything just fell into place on its own. You didn’t really have to look for it you know. 

What are some struggles of being a musician? 

There’s a lot of struggles of being a musician. I guess you can say if you are not like what we call it “ de base” you’re gonna struggle a lot with finding gigs every weekend. If you have a home place where you go play every Thursday, Friday, Saturday you know what I mean, you are going to get more clients on the weekends than you would as someone who doesn’t… that just plays weekends you know. I basically think that’s key to it man if you could play, it doesn’t matter if you play for 100 bucks at the end of the day you’re putting yourself out there. You got to put yourself out there in order to get more work. And then you know once people start saying “you know this group their good that’s when you could be like we’re worth a little bit more now.

What is your goal with music?

My goal with music, just to be like for people to be like wow have you heard that song, ooh yea I know the songwriter of it. That’s my goal in it. For being a writer.

Oral history has been shared with the written permission of the narrator. Oral history has been edited for length and clarity. 

“MANY THINGS FOR MOTIVATION”: A MAN OF MANY STORIES

March 2020  / Interviewed by Roxanne

University of Wyoming and graduate and Rancho Verde High School educator Mindy Ballanyne teaches AP Psychology, Economics and AVID. Mindy strives to make a positive impact on her students learning from her own mistakes to better understand her students' situations and further grow her outreach to them. Her impact has gone far beyond highschool as well as advocating for better educational resources for students across the state. 

Before college what drove you to become an educator?

When I was in high school on my basketball team that I played for and my friends, I did a lot of tutoring and kind of like mentoring them especially because some of the girls on the basketball team didn’t have the grades to be able to continue to play. So I kind of took it upon myself to mentor them and tutor them so that their grades will improve so that they could play. Between that and mentoring of the younger teammates and working with my friends to tutor them I just, it was something that I was like good at and that I enjoyed and I’m a big believer in finding something that you actually enjoy for a job because you’re gonna do it for a really long period of time and it has to be something that is rewarding to keep you, you know being happy doing it.

How has becoming a teacher affected your family life?

There are positives and there’s negatives, I think on the negative side it is a very emotionally draining job, you know the consistent decisions that have to be made throughout the day because believe it or not teachers make decisions all the time. Also if you are an empath, like an empathetic person and you have a tendency to take on what your students are going through and that is emotionally draining too because you care enough to be concerned about your students and with you know some of us have almost 200 students. Considering that there’s so many things going on with them emotionally and kind of taking that on that means that I have 120 kids that I worry about. 


Usually it’s eighty kids a day that have something going on that talk to me, so I’m walking around with eighty kids emotional stressors on me every day so I come home pretty emotionally, physically drained so I know that’s hard on my family especially because then I can’t give the attention to my husband and son that I should. I also think that it is hard because I’m constantly doing some kind of work. Whether it’s like grading, thinking about a lesson or talking about stuff that I was teaching my kids. Like we have games here at school where I’m always like hey I want to go support my students let’s go to the game. So a lot of time, not just my time but my family’s time is dedicated to school. The benefits of it is obviously there’s an income, that’s basic. The benefit of it too is it gives me a real big insight on student’s development, emotional and educational. I think that it makes me a much better parent to have that. I know I can be stressed but it also makes it easier for me to help my son.

Describe your most fulfilling moment as a teacher.

This student and I had this butting heads thing because he was talking during a test, him and his friend were separated on other sides of the classroom for obvious reason and he actually got up in the middle of the test after me constantly asking to stop talking and he literally walked across the room to his friend and started talking to him. So course I’m upset so I said something to him and he said ‘Well, I’m just asking to borrow a pencil’ but he had a pen on his desk that he was writing with so I picked it up and I said well I guess this doesn’t work and I threw it in the trash and he flipped out. He got so upset and he was saying all kinds of things that you should not say to your teacher so I kicked him out of the room but he refused to leave so he just sat himself on a counter and refused to leave. I told him I was going to call his parents, so afterwards I did. I tried to call his Dad and how it turned out was one of those phone calls made me realize that his life at home was extremely unstable and it kind of made me realize that throwing away his pen was kind of like taking away something of his that is somewhat stable. And I was like ‘Oh man. I’m a real jerk. I should not have done that.” So I ended up apologizing to him the next day telling him I wanted to start fresh with our relationship because I had gone out of line and I should not have acted that way. 


As time went by he and I got very close and he became a kid who would go out of his way to say hi to me around the campus. There’s pictures of us in the yearbook, there’s pictures of us on the news, the Mustang news. I was there supporting him when they won the football championship and funny enough I was sitting right next to his dad the entire game. His dad and I got to celebrate that together and I got to see him graduate. That was very special, I still talk to him. He actually is going to be a teacher himself. That was definitely a rewarding thing. 


More recently I've had a lot of students that have gotten into college, which is rewarding like I know that’s going to happen and it happens a lot. But I have one girl in particular who had a really really tough last semester. She was not going to apply to colleges at all and she’s not in my AVID class she’s in another class. She ended up writing me through Twitter on like November 30th, the last day to turn in your college applications. She wrote me on Twitter cause we weren’t in school and she’s like “I really want to apply to colleges but I’m not sure of what I need to do.” That’s a pretty intense thing to do at the very last minute. So she and I basically talked through Twitter and we worked on her college application on November 30th while I was at home on my vacation. She really didn’t even know what colleges she wanted to apply to so we even had to look into what she wanted to do and what colleges had the programs that she wanted and we ended up getting her applied. It was rough and she wasn’t going to apply but I’m so glad that she did and over the last couple weeks she’s been getting acceptances to these colleges that she never thought she was gonna get accepted to. Her dad told her she wasn’t gonna get accepted, people at school told her she shouldn’t even bother applying and she’s getting accepted now and I think that’s something that’s like super rewarding because that’s really going to impact and change her life.

Describe a moment that has made you question your career, if any?

We have teachers in states like Colorado and California who are on strike and they’re not just fighting for a larger salary they’re fighting for support staff. They’re fighting for the schools to have more school psychologists. They’re fighting for schools to have nurses and like teachers are really on the front lines of education, fighting for a better education for students. And looking at it, it’s one of those things where teachers should have more respect and they should be paid like professionals because we jump through a lot of hoops and we do a lot just to become a teacher. Let alone when you are a teacher and you have to constantly do all this stuff to just stay a teacher. Not only are we not getting the benefits that we deserve, but we’re not getting the respect that we deserve. I mean teachers are the ones who are out here fighting for the education of kids who are not ours, we’re fighting to make sure that our students get education as though they are our children. 


More educators across the United States have decided to run for office than ever before. What policies do you feel they should address should they be your advocate?


I feel like especially with the government, education is not at the forefront. It can be put at the forefront in some cases, but nothing is ever really done about it. It usually becomes fourth, fifth in line of these important topics to talk about and it's because nobody really makes a big deal out of it. Education like Common Core that we have right now. Was thought up by business owners and put into place by business owners. How good do you think it is for kids? Some things that are okay, but most of it it's not supporting our students and that's how it is. Look at education has become a business and it shouldn't become a business because when it’s a business people are going to start doing what makes money for them and not thinking about the outcome that is supposed to be had. Things like the college board with the tests that they have and how much it costs to take the test and test prep and how much that costs. Education should not be a business. Because any time there is any kind of business, anytime there is money involved it gets shady, look at colleges now. 

I’m shocked when I look at how much it costs to go to college these days. It is insane and I don't understand why it costs so much more for you guys than it did for me when I graduated from college. It was only like 13 years ago, but the cost of going to college has almost tripled. Why?! Because it’s a business. People are making money off of it. So I think that there should be more teachers that run and more teachers that are advocates for education because they actually know what goes on in the education sector. Like who we have, Betsy DeVos. Oh my God, that lady knows nothing. She's a businesswoman and she's in charge of education? That's garbage! I shouldn’t be talking politically, but seriously, we need to have an educator or someone who was an educator. Especially somebody who attended a public school in charge of the education sector in our government. That's what we need. We don't need some business person. We don't need somebody that doesn't know anything about education being in charge of our education. Because that's missed opportunities. That creates more issues for our students. It’s not helping them.

“AS THOUGH THEY ARE OUR CHILDREN”: UNSUNG HEROES

March 2020  / Interviewed by Natalie

University of Wyoming graduate and Rancho Verde High School teacher Mindy Ballanyne teaches AP Psychology, Economics and AVID. Mindy strives to make a positive impact on her students learning from her own mistakes to better understand her students' situations and further grow her outreach to them. Her impact has gone far beyond highschool as well as advocating for better educational resources for students across the state.

Before college what drove you to become an educator?

When I was in high school on my basketball team that I played for and my friends, I did a lot of tutoring and kind of like mentoring them especially because some of the girls on the basketball team didn’t have the grades to be able to continue to play. So I kind of took it upon myself to mentor them and tutor them so that their grades will improve so that they could play. Between that and mentoring of the younger teammates and working with my friends to tutor them I just, it was something that I was like good at and that I enjoyed and I’m a big believer in finding something that you actually enjoy for a job because you’re gonna do it for a really long period of time and it has to be something that is rewarding to keep you, you know being happy doing it.

How has becoming a teacher affected your family life?

There are positives and there’s negatives, I think on the negative side it is a very emotionally draining job, you know the consistent decisions that have to be made throughout the day because believe it or not teachers make decisions all the time. Also if you are an empath, like an empathetic person and you have a tendency to take on what your students are going through and that is emotionally draining too because you care enough to be concerned about your students and with you know some of us have almost 200 students. Considering that there’s so many things going on with them emotionally and kind of taking that on that means that I have 120 kids that I worry about. 

Usually it’s eighty kids a day that have something going on that talk to me, so I’m walking around with eighty kids emotional stressors on me every day so I come home pretty emotionally, physically drained so I know that’s hard on my family especially because then I can’t give the attention to my husband and son that I should. I also think that it is hard because I’m constantly doing some kind of work. Whether it’s like grading, thinking about a lesson or talking about stuff that I was teaching my kids. Like we have games here at school where I’m always like hey I want to go support my students let’s go to the game. So a lot of time, not just my time but my family’s time is dedicated to school. The benefits of it is obviously there’s an income, that’s basic. The benefit of it too is it gives me a real big insight on student’s development, emotional and educational. I think that it makes me a much better parent to have that. I know I can be stressed but it also makes it easier for me to help my son.

Describe your most fulfilling moment as a teacher.

This student and I had this butting heads thing because he was talking during a test, him and his friend were separated on other sides of the classroom for obvious reason and he actually got up in the middle of the test after me constantly asking to stop talking and he literally walked across the room to his friend and started talking to him. So course I’m upset so I said something to him and he said ‘Well, I’m just asking to borrow a pencil’ but he had a pen on his desk that he was writing with so I picked it up and I said well I guess this doesn’t work and I threw it in the trash and he flipped out. He got so upset and he was saying all kinds of things that you should not say to your teacher so I kicked him out of the room but he refused to leave so he just sat himself on a counter and refused to leave. I told him I was going to call his parents, so afterwards I did. I tried to call his Dad and how it turned out was one of those phone calls made me realize that his life at home was extremely unstable and it kind of made me realize that throwing away his pen was kind of like taking away something of his that is somewhat stable. And I was like ‘Oh man. I’m a real jerk. I should not have done that.” So I ended up apologizing to him the next day telling him I wanted to start fresh with our relationship because I had gone out of line and I should not have acted that way. 


As time went by he and I got very close and he became a kid who would go out of his way to say hi to me around the campus. There’s pictures of us in the yearbook, there’s pictures of us on the news, the Mustang news. I was there supporting him when they won the football championship and funny enough I was sitting right next to his dad the entire game. His dad and I got to celebrate that together and I got to see him graduate. That was very special, I still talk to him. He actually is going to be a teacher himself. That was definitely a rewarding thing. 


More recently I've had a lot of students that have gotten into college, which is rewarding like I know that’s going to happen and it happens a lot. But I have one girl in particular who had a really really tough last semester. She was not going to apply to colleges at all and she’s not in my AVID class she’s in another class. She ended up writing me through Twitter on like November 30th, the last day to turn in your college applications. She wrote me on Twitter cause we weren’t in school and she’s like “I really want to apply to colleges but I’m not sure of what I need to do.” That’s a pretty intense thing to do at the very last minute. So she and I basically talked through Twitter and we worked on her college application on November 30th while I was at home on my vacation. She really didn’t even know what colleges she wanted to apply to so we even had to look into what she wanted to do and what colleges had the programs that she wanted and we ended up getting her applied. It was rough and she wasn’t going to apply but I’m so glad that she did and over the last couple weeks she’s been getting acceptances to these colleges that she never thought she was gonna get accepted to. Her dad told her she wasn’t gonna get accepted, people at school told her she shouldn’t even bother applying and she’s getting accepted now and I think that’s something that’s like super rewarding because that’s really going to impact and change her life.

Describe a moment that has made you question your career, if any?

We have teachers in states like Colorado and California who are on strike and they’re not just fighting for a larger salary they’re fighting for support staff. They’re fighting for the schools to have more school psychologists. They’re fighting for schools to have nurses and like teachers are really on the front lines of education, fighting for a better education for students. And looking at it, it’s one of those things where teachers should have more respect and they should be paid like professionals because we jump through a lot of hoops and we do a lot just to become a teacher. Let alone when you are a teacher and you have to constantly do all this stuff to just stay a teacher. Not only are we not getting the benefits that we deserve, but we’re not getting the respect that we deserve. I mean teachers are the ones who are out here fighting for the education of kids who are not ours, we’re fighting to make sure that our students get education as though they are our children. 

More educators across the United States have decided to run for office than ever before. What policies do you feel they should address should they be your advocate?

I feel like especially with the government education is not at the forefront. It can be put at the forefront in some cases, but nothing is ever really done about it. It usually becomes fourth, fifth in line of these important topics to talk about and it's because nobody really makes a big deal out of it. Education like Common Core that we have right now. Was thought up by business owners and put into place by business owners. How good do you think it is for kids? Some things that are okay, but most of it it's not supporting our students and that's how it is. Look at education has become a business and it shouldn't become a business because when it’s a business people are going to start doing what makes money for them and not thinking about the outcome that is supposed to be had. Things like the college board with the tests that they have and how much it costs to take the test and test prep and how much that costs. Education should not be a business. Because any time there is any kind of business, anytime there is money involved it gets shady, look at colleges now. 

I’m shocked when I look at how much it costs to go to college these days. It is insane and I don't understand why it costs so much more for you guys than it did for me when I graduated from college. It was only like 13 years ago, but the cost of going to college has almost tripled. Why?! Because it’s a business. People are making money off of it. So I think that there should be more teachers that run and more teachers that are advocates for education because they actually know what goes on in the education sector. Like who we have, Betsy DeVos. Oh my God, that lady knows nothing. She's a businesswoman and she's in charge of education? That's garbage! I shouldn’t be talking politically, but seriously, we need to have an educator or someone who was an educator. Especially somebody who attended a public school in charge of the education sector in our government. That's what we need. We don't need some business person. We don't need somebody that doesn't know anything about education being in charge of our education. Because that's missed opportunities. That creates more issues for our students. It’s not helping them.

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