Things That Matter

Here’s Why Roxana Dueñas, A Teacher In Boyle Heights, Became The Face Of The LA Teachers’ Strike

Roxana Dueñas remembers walking through the streets of Boyle Heights to get to school. She attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, which was the site of the 1968 walkouts. During the 1968 walkouts, Chicano students protested unequal treatment. Today, Dueñas is walking those same streets leading a new protest but this time as a teacher. She is one of the thousands of teachers striking on behalf of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) as they seek higher pay and better classroom conditions. She has also quickly become the face of the LA teachers strike as her image has been seen on posters, billboards, and classroom walls across Southern California.

Roxana Dueñas is steadfast and determined in the LA Teachers Strike poster urging people to “Stand With LA Teachers!”

Credit: UTLA

Dueñas, 34, has taught history and ethnic studies at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights for the past nine years. Growing up in the neighborhood was a big reason she wanted to return and teach there after graduating from UCLA with her master’s in education. It was her time at UC Santa Barbara, however, where she learned about Chicano studies and how was she was devoid of the history that happened at her own high school.

“My high school experience was positive for the most part but when I took my first ethnic study class in college I learned that my high school was part of the Chicano walkouts,” Dueñas said. “They never taught us about it and it made me realize not everyone had the same experience as me growing up.”

That’s why she made it a mission to create a learning environment where students could learn about their culture. In 2014, her and two other teachers created an ethnic studies curriculum that taught students about the local Chicano history that happened in their neighborhood. Her colleagues and students acknowledge her commitment and passion for teaching, it’s also a big reason why she was chosen to be highlighted on a poster.

Ernesto Yereno, a local Boyle Heights artist, chose to highlight Dueñas because he knew what her image represents in the majority Latino school district.

Credit: Ernesto Yerena

Yerena, who has a studio in Boyle Heights, met Dueñas after realizing they had mutual friends and shared similar views. After the UTLA approached him about creating some work for their campaign, he knew Dueñas was the perfect embodiment of what the strike should be representing.

“Roxy is an awesome teacher and an even better person. A lot of the kids look up to her in the community,” Yerena said. “I knew what impact she would have so it was a no-doubter to have her as the face of the strike.”

The 32-year-old artist specializes in political art, particularly work that highlights Latino people and culture. He says that highlighting a person of color is important especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where less than 11 percent of students are white and 66 percent of teachers are people of color.

“A lot of times people tell me they see themselves in my work and, as brown people, we never see someone like us so when they do its a big deal,” he said. “Representation matters especially a majority Latino area like this. Growing up all I had were white teachers so Roxy is a mirror image of who she is standing up for on the picket lines.”

Dueñas recalls two young girls asking to take a picture with her and having her one of her students show the poster as her lock-screen image. “To me it’s unbelievable and it empowering to see young girls look up to you. It makes me feel like we’re on the right side.”

Dueñas says she is humbled by the artwork and wants it to remind people of the importance of the changing demographics in this country.

CREDIT: Empan16/Twitter

When asked what it means to not only be the face of the strike but have it be a Latina, Dueñas said she hopes it’s the start of a shift in representation.

“I’m optimistic,” she says. “It means there’s a change in terms of the demographics of our teachers and the students they serve in their communities nationwide.”

She acknowledges that school is more than just a place to learn for many students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The majority of students are low-income as more than 80 percent of its students get free or reduced-price lunches. Parents use school as daycare, a place where their children get fed and foster relationships with teachers especially here in East LA.

“That’s the driving force behind our school site. They are more than just academic learning centers but a place where they foster relationships with teachers,” Dueñas said. “You can’t serve without observing the other. These things are interconnecting and our young people have a broad range of needs.”

The LA Teachers Strike has brought support from students and parents that Dueñas says reminds her of why she got into teaching in the first place.

Credit: Twitter/JosephBrusky

“It all has definitely been humbling and really its surreal to see my face everywhere,” Dueñas said. “I was pouring rain the first four days of the strike and we had parents and students come by to show their support, I can’t put that into words.”

Dueñas, whose father was a cook and had a stay-at-home mom who immigrated from Mexico, says she’s been approached by many parents thanking her for taking a stand for their children’s education. She understands the sentiment and the responsibility she has not only as a teacher but as a role model in the working class neighborhood she grew up in.

As union leaders and teachers reached an agreement after six days of picketing, Dueñas says addressing issues like smaller class sizes and hiring more support staff is more imperative than ever. She says the strike was bigger than just one demand but an attempt to transform a place of learning especially in communities of color like Boyle Heights.

“When I see my students for the first time after the strike ends, I want to tell them one thing,” Dueñas said. “I want them to see that organizing works and I hope more importantly they can see themselves making a difference in their own community.”


READ: As LA Teachers Go Into The Second Day Of Their Strike, A GoFundMe Campaign Is Bringing Tacos To The Picket Lines

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Redditers Are Sharing Stories About Teachers Who Earned Their Respect

Things That Matter

Redditers Are Sharing Stories About Teachers Who Earned Their Respect

During a town hall on Tuesday, President Joe Biden underlined the importance of ensuring that teachers are moved up higher on the list of those who are getting vaccinated for Covid-19.

Speaking about his latest efforts, the president stated that teachers should be moved up in the hierarchy and answered a question from a high school teacher about his plans to safely reopen schools. In his answer, Biden stated that he believed officials should avoid resuming large classes and instead should “smaller classes, more ventilation, making sure that everybody has masks and is socially distanced.”

It’s a step in the right direction of showing teachers how important they are to us amidst a discussion about respect for teachers on Reddit.

Check the replies below.

“I went to a small charter school for middle school. Our English/literature teacher was brand new to teaching, if I remember correctly she was only 22 which seemed old at the time. She always did her best to be so cheerful and make learning fun. But the thing that truly solidified her spot as my favorite teacher was that for every student’s birthday she would give you a personalized mini notebook. It was just a simple small composition notebook but she had filled the first couple pages telling me how much she loved having me as a student, how far she knew I would go, and other affirmations. It seems small but as a 13 year old who had a crappy home life it made all the difference in how I acted the rest of the year.”-Voiceisaweapon

“When I was in the 1st grade my mother gave me one of MANY really awful haircuts. The first day back at school afterward the kids picked on me horribly. So much that I ran out and hid. The principal found me and we went back to the classroom and he asked me to wait outside for a minute while he talked to the class. He then walked me to his office and bought me a Coke.
The next day – first thing in the morning – we had an assembly with the entire school and he walked up on stage with his head shaved completely bald and talked about bullying and the like.
Some twenty years down the road he had retired and I ran into him at the local college. SHook his hand and said, “You probably don’t remember me, but,” 

“yes I do,” he interrupted and said my name and the event.
The man was and is a hero in my eyes.” – hopgeek

“I had a teacher in elementary school who was prone to outbursts. He had a short fuse, at least compared to every other adult I knew at the time. For instance, when several of us in class weren’t listening he’d throw a piece of chalk against the wall to get our attention.

Honestly, we just thought he was crazy.

A year or maybe two years later, the school had a talent show. Like a big one, in the gym, in front of everyone. One my classmates was really into music and wanted to play a drum solo. Our teacher had mentioned off-hand that he used to be in a band and played drums, so my classmate asked him (sort of dared, like kids often do with adults) to play a solo in front of the school

And he did. He fucking rocked it.

But that’s not what made me respect him. Turns out the band he played for was a very successful, and at the time quite popular rock band. He left just before they became popular, because he wanted to be a teacher. He chose teaching kids over the chance at fame and fortune, and didn’t regret it.

Edit: Decided to look him up and he’s still a teacher, and doing very well. Made me smile.”- dasoberirishman

“I had a physical education teacher who organised basketball, volleyball, handball and football tournaments, organised ‘olympic games’ for the local kids and taught us dancing on weekends. On his own. Just for us kids, because we lived in a remote place without many activities and things going on. He was more than a simple teacher.”- dasoberirishman

“When I was a kid we had to purchase these red punch cards to get lunch at school. Unfortunately we didn’t have that much money so there were times where my punch card would run out and I wasn’t able to eat for a while until we got enough money to repurchase another one (why nobody in my family applied for assistance was beyond me). I had one teacher who noticed I wasn’t eating every day and she would bring an extra sandwich and offer it to me whenever she saw that. I really didn’t understand how kind that was when I was a kid but obviously as an adult That was such an amazing gesture of kindness.”- sk8erguysk8er

“Not take my shit. I was a pretty decent writer in school; able to pop stuff out pretty quickly that was superficial but sounded good. The first time I had a teacher hand my work back pointing out that I managed to compellingly fail to say anything was sort of a slap in the face that I didn’t realize I needed.” –AvogadrosMoleSauce

“This will probably get lost, but I want to shout out this teacher of mine. She was our AP English Language teacher for our senior year of high school. On one of the first days in her class, she explained how she went from being a kindergarten teacher to a high school senior teacher.

She always saw off her cute and happy kindergarten kids, but as they grew up and they came back to visit her, a lot of them came to her troubled and dissatisfied with their lives. It made her real emotional about how people had treated these kids she loved so much, how she couldn’t afford to see kids so disconnected with life, and how she didn’t want them to suffer as they headed out towards college and their adult lives.

So she changed curriculums and started teaching seniors. If I remember right, it always came down to sending her kids off with a smile, prepping them for the real world. I respect the hell out of her and she’ll always be one of my favorites. Truly like a mother to all her students.” –NuluProton

“I had a professor once state that she doesn’t believe in trick questions. Students trick themselves up enough without the professor helping that along. She never did put trick questions.” –Nicholi417

“Junior year of high school, English class. We were discussing a story we had read. One student (let’s call him Carl,) made a point. The teacher was dismissive and basically said Carl was wrong.

The next day, after we took our seats the teacher said, “Before we begin, I was thinking about what Carl said yesterday. I was wrong to dismiss it so quickly. Let’s take a look at that again.” He then went on to repeat Carl’s point and initiate a conversation with the entire class. After the conversation, it became apparent Carl’s point was indeed off base, but I was impressed the teacher publicly owned his mistake and went down the path he should have.”- Andreas_NYC

“It was a professor, but she said she wasn’t going to have a textbook for the class. Basically, she didn’t respect the textbook representatives trying to take the pharma approach to force kids to buy an $170 access code.

Instant respect. You just had to show up to the lectures and she’d teach you what you needed to know.” –enchiladacheese

“A math teacher went to the hospital several times to visit a student who had been seriously injured in an accident.

The teacher offered companionship, free tutoring, and genuine encouragement.” –Back2Bach

“Told us a joke about his name (before we could) and allowed us to eat during his classes “because kids your age can’t help being hungry all the time”, as long as we did it quietly. Great guy. His whole attitude made all of us actually pay attention and do our best.” –Mom_is_watching

“math teacher : “I don’t care if you have good grades or bad grades, if you work hard, I will work harder to make you pass”.

He worked hard for me; I passed …” –Thesorus

“I had a sociology professor who gave us a Do Not Fail Checklist. Complete and you were guaranteed to pass. I also had a high school Chem teacher who bet us all $100 that if we passed his class we would pass our first college chem class. He was just really awesome all around- he told stories about travelling the world over breaks, got absurdly off topic to teach us random stuff, had a physics lab where we got to throw eggs at him, and occassionally we had a class where absolutely nothing got done because we were having a discussion. He used to give out quarters for correcting him, or for anything done really well. He put up posters about his trips and gave us extra credit quizes about them because he said being observant was really important in chemistry. Actually there were a few really weird activities in that class- I will never forget the time he ate chalk to prove to us that it was the same stuff as in milk. He was brilliant, hilarious, and just a really incredible human being.” –HylianEngineer

“I had a similar teacher. He would let us be who we were, listen to our ipod in class, and encouraged us to think outside “the class”.

I gained respect for him when he saw some kids going to skip and he called them into his class. Told them “if you’re gonna skip class than come to my class and do whatever you want in the back. Rather have you inside the school than outside”

Everyone loved that teacher while the other teachers couldn’t stand him. He had everyone’s respect.” –Raw1213

“I remember my 5th grade teacher had every student circle one book from the Scholastic book fair flyer. When the day came for the fair if you didn’t go to the library to purchase that book for yourself, she would buy it with her own money to make sure every student got to take a book home. I wouldn’t have had any books of my own if it weren’t for her.”- banhbohap 

“Treated kids with autism + aspergers like actual human beings.

In my school I was in a special needs unit for kids with aspergers and autism called the CDU (communication disorder unit). The kids in there ranged from having mild aspergers to full on severe autism, and as such most teachers treated everyone from there like they had severe mental health problems just because they were labelled as having autism or aspergers even if it was very mild. But there was one support teacher in the cdu who was genuinely just a nice dude, whether he was talking to kids who had severe autism or just some mild social anxiety he wouldn’t talk extra slowly or call you “bud” or “pal” at the end of a sentence, he would talk to everyone like they were real human beings. It might seem like a small thing but when that’s how pretty much all teachers talked to you and treated you in every class it was very refreshing to talk to someone who would talk to you based on who you were as a person rather than treating someone differently for being labelled as autistic.” –mild_salsa_dip 

“Thankfully this program didn’t exist at my school, Aspies had 504’s and more severe cases had IEP’s and certain classes were done by special teachers or with an extra teacher. Nobody was made to feel stupid or less than other students. That teacher is the kind that all nuerodivergent students love.”- TheCrazyBlacksmith

“English teacher in high school asked where my homework was. Responded “I forgot to do it” and he said to the rest of the class “Why can’t you guys be like Scratch_That_? He doesn’t come up with some excuse he just tells me he didn’t do it.” –Scratch_That_ 

“Instead of shouting at my loud class for not shutting up before the lesson began, my history teacher decided to quietly tell the story of a pink elephant that wanted to be an astronaut. After a few seconds, people started to shut up and listen about the pink elephant. When everyone was quiet and listening, he stopped mid-story.” –Cae1us

“I’m epileptic and had a large set of seizures not long before finals in high school chemistry. My seizures tend to mess with my memory, and those multiple seizures had devastated my memory of everything I’d learned in class that semester. I was doing reasonably well in class but absolutely bombed the test. After the failed test I ended up just shy of passing the class and he decided to give me a bonus question that passed me. I didn’t expect that, but the empathy was nice to see from a teacher. Even still, the whole situation sucked.

My math teacher told me I should have studied better. He then offered for me to retake the test which seems reasonable enough but there was no point as it was just all gone.

I’ve only had one since that was worse than that, but fortunately I’ve got an understanding employer. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a union rep as well…” –Early_or_Latte

“One of my high school math teachers had a policy that you could retake any test as many times as you needed to. No penalties. And she would help tutor you during any study hall or before or after school or during lunch.

Must’ve been a huge pain in the ass time wise to write new tests and tutor and grade. But her stance was that she was there to teach. And if you didn’t grasp it enough for the test, you didn’t gain anything by failing and moving on. But if you cared and wanted to learn how to do it, then she was responsible to support you the entire way there.

Edit: also now remembering that she spearheaded this thing around prom or dances where she and the other teachers would pool together some money and she would tell us that if any of us couldn’t afford the tickets or an outfit for them then to see her or drop a note on her desk or call her and she would make sure you got to go. And now having a better grasp on just how shittily we pay teachers – just an incredible person.” –PhiloPhocion 

“Had an extremely zany teacher who taught Psychology, and had the last name Ward. Psycho personality (in the best way possible) to fit her name and job. Never met someone who fit their name and job description so well. (Worse, she taught driver’s ed too, on the side.)

She was the type whose zany personality was a big plus; most of her kids loved her, but if you effed around in her class, she’d eject you from it, with extreme prejudice.

She still teaches, and she teaches very well.

As an aside, there was also this middle-aged woman who was basically a hall monitor and filled in any other position she could think of, as well as handing out dententions or suspensions if she caught you effing around instead of being where you were supposed to be. Small lady, absolutely no-nonsense and tough as nails. She wouldn’t take shit from you, but also incredibly fair overall.

I realized she knew when to bend. My older two siblings hated her because she always caught them skipping class, smoking, or worse. I got along with her very well and never caused her any trouble. I asked her once about my little brother, and she said he was a good kid and while she’d had to give him detention a few times, she was also proud of him because when he got into a fight, he did it for the right reasons. My little bro’s a very tall, hulking guy and never hesitated to defend someone from a bully. It got him a few detentions for fighting but apparently she made it clear she was proud of him for standing up for others nonetheless.

I repeated this later to my brother, and he said she was a very good woman, very fair, and that he’d liked her for that fairness, and her sheer guts.”-MidorBird 

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JLo Celebrates 20 Years Of “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” By Perfectly Recreating The Iconic Music Video

Entertainment

JLo Celebrates 20 Years Of “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” By Perfectly Recreating The Iconic Music Video

It’s been twenty (20!) years since Jennifer Lopez’s iconic album J.Lo debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. Since then, a lot has happened for the “Let’s Get Loud” international pop icon, not to mention the world.

But to help us all take a stroll down memory lane, J Lo recreated the music video for “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” and it’s honestly perfection. And perhaps kinda strange, since honestly, Lopez doesn’t look any different!

Jennifer Lopez celebrates the 20th anniversary of her album J.Lo in the best way possible.

JLo took us back over the weekend, all the way back to 2001, in honor of her second album J.Lo, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The singer re-created a moment from the “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” music video to celebrate the last two decades.

J.Lo specifically re-created the scenes on the beach where she discards her possessions and most of her clothes. This time around, she even threw her bracelet into the sand. And while she stopped short of replicating the original video’s ending in which she took her shirt off while walking into the sea, J.Lo ended her micro-update of the clip with a fake-out nodding to that original ending.

“As I reflect on the fact that it’s the #JLo20thAnniversary, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for being with me, loving me and supporting me through all the ups and downs,” Lopez captioned a second post. “Thank you so much for all the love over the past 20 years!! I love you so much!!”

It’s obvious that JLo herself knows just how iconic the song is – which is why, in another Instagram post she ended her caption with the hashtag #MyLoveDontCostAThing.

And, in case you were wondering, this is the original video from 2001.

The original music video was also a work of heart that did justice to the now and forever iconic song.

Her new take on the classic video has also spurred the #LoveDontCostAThingChallenge on social media.

While some tried their best to meet J Lo’s challenge, others pointed out that this must be a rich person’s challenge. I mean, not many of us are going to be ripping off our non-existent diamond jewelery and throwing it into the ocean or sand.

Lopez has a big year ahead of her and we can’t wait to follow along.

It’s been twenty years since J.Lo hit the charts so obviously a lot has happened for the pop star. Most recently, she performed “This Land Is Your Land” at the 2021 presidential inauguration. But she’s just getting started. This year, we can expect so much more, including a new rom-com called Marry Me with Maluma coming out on Valentine’s Day 2021.

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