Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as a way to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 – Dr. Javier Arizmendi is an ESL teacher at Glenn High School. When working with his students, he makes a point to work the history of the United States into what he does.
“History is my passion,” he said. “I want to make American citizens with good vision. They need to know about their country.”
With this being National Hispanic Heritage Month, he also wants to make sure students know the role that people of Hispanic heritage have played in the country’s history and culture and some of what they have achieved along the way.
“It’s a way to let them know that we care about them,” Arizmendi said. “It is the opportunity to establish a great connection with students and our community.”
As part of the celebration, he also gives students the opportunity to share with him and others in their remote-learning classes information about their own backgrounds.
Students can also learn more about Hispanic heritage through the YouTube videos that he plays before class starts each day.
Arizmendi, who is 57, has many stories to tell about his own life.
Born in Barcelona, Spain, he moved to Mexico when he married in 1982. He began teaching in Mexico in 1982 and was a school superintendent by the time he came to the United States in 2001 to become a teacher for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).
After working for seven years at CMS, he joined Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools in 2007 and has been teaching at Glenn ever since. Along the way, he became a U.S. citizen. Arizmendi has also earned a doctorate in School Administration.
Over years, he has taught in kindergarten through high school as well as at the college level.
After WS/FC schools switched to remote learning in March because of the coronavirus and he was teaching from home, Arizmendi headed to Mexico to take care of some business and to visit with family.
He had to cut his trip short when he found out that the border between the United States and Mexico was going to close.
While he was there, Arizmendi and his youngest child – Itzel – spent time in Toluca, which is about 45 minutes from Mexico City. Now that he is back, he is sharing photos and more of the history that he learned with students.
Arizmendi has three children. His oldest – Jonathan – is an architect. Zuglady is a psychologist. Itzel is working on a master’s degree in business administration. He also has two grandchildren.
One of Arizmendi’s stories about his life is connected to 9/11. When he returned to the United States a couple of weeks before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, he realized after he got home from the airport that he had forgotten to pick up one of his bags. When he returned to the airport to retrieve it, he was taken to large storage facility.
There, he discovered that someone had broken the lock and damaged the leather bag. At the time, he was quite upset. It was only after 9/11 that he realized that authorities, having heard about a possible terrorist attack, had been searching for bombs and such. When someone left a bag, they may have thought it had been done on purpose.
Arizmendi is stunningly busy. When summer school is held, he teaches Spanish to third-grade elementary students. During the regular school year, he teaches Spanish at Forsyth Technical Community College. At Glenn, he teaches English as a Second Language to students in grades nine through 12.
“I have two jobs,” he said.
As a certified interpreter, he also interprets when needed for the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
At conferences, Arizmendi has also made presentations to teachers at such universities as Appalachian State University.
He likes to travel. With his interest in history, much of his travel has been to cities and states connected to early American history – Washington, New York, Boston. He has also been to California, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia.
You will find some of the videos that Arizmendi shows to his students at:
336.727.2696 ext. 70114