Spanish Teacher in Southern New Mexico "Honored" for Connecting with Students, Changing Lives
Manuel Mendoza chosen as April Honoree; profiled by Los Angeles Times Journalist and Editor Steve Padilla
WASHINGTON, DC - April 1, 2018
Manuel Mendoza, who for 22 years has quietly inspired hundreds of students at Gadsden High School in rural Anthony, New Mexico, is Honored’s April Honoree. As part of his award, Mendoza received a $5,000 cash award and a $1,000 DonorsChoose.org gift card, and had his story composed by Steve Padilla, an award-winning journalist and editor at the Los Angeles Times.
After immigrating to the United States from Mexico as a teenager, Mendoza struggled with school as he adjusted to a new language and culture. He persevered through many hardships and graduated from college, then went on to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.
Mendoza teaches AP Spanish in Anthony, a town of about 9,300 bordering the Texas state line, 21 miles north of El Paso. The town is 97% Latino, and 40% live below the poverty level. Most students at Gadsden High School qualify for subsidized lunches.
At Gadsden, Mendoza has a reputation as an exacting teacher who pushes his students, firmly but gently, to succeed – and not just in his class. He monitors their grades, checks with their other teachers, he calls their parents, he calls them. He arranges tutoring. He brings food – cookies, or even burritos – to class on big test days, because no student should have take an important exam while hungry. The sixth of 11 children, he remembers what it’s like to go to school with an empty stomach. As Gadsden’s Principal, Hector Girón, says, “He has a tremendous sense of ownership. He sees a reflection of himself in the students here.”
Mendoza was nominated on the Honored website for the award by his former student, Gabriel, who met Mendoza at a pivotal time in his life. Gabriel explains that during his freshman year, “I really didn’t have a teacher who cared. Several teachers gave up on me.” One district official even suggested he drop out of school and get a job “like a real man.” Gabriel says, “There was a point I wanted to give up. I thought I wasn’t going to graduate at all.”
All of that changed the day he walked into Mendoza’s classroom. The walls are decorated with inspirational sayings, such as “Respeto + Dedicación = Éxito.” Respect + Dedication = Success. Gabriel says,
“As soon as I walked into his class, I felt the love and the warmth. He shook my hand and welcomed me with a huge smile that brightened my day. He’s like the father I never had.”
Gabriel is now getting straight A’s and will be graduating a year early. In the fall, he’ll begin courses at New Mexico State University. He wants to be a teacher. “I knew he was a smart kid,” Mendoza says.
Read the full story of Mr. Mendoza and Gabriel at www.honored.org/honoree/manuel-mendoza.
Honored is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and to inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching. Each month, Honored shines a spotlight on a teacher who has changed the life of a single student. The Honoree receives a $5,000 cash award, and Honored partners with a world-class writer to tell their story. Honorees are selected from K-12 teachers of all subjects at public, private and charter schools across the country. Honored’s National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally best-selling author Michael Lewis, DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, and FEED co-founder Lauren Bush Lauren.
For more information about Honored, visit honored.org. For regular updates on Honored and our monthly Honorees, follow and like us on facebook.com/Honored.org, twitter.com/honored and instagram.com/honored.
Honored Press ContactKaren Sonneborn