Photo courtesy of UTSA

Lorena Claeys, executive director and research associate for the college of education and human development academy for teacher excellence, created a film called “Con Ganas” that highlights five inspirational male educators of color (Latino/Mexican-American, Puerto Rican and African). “Ganas” stands for the teacher’s desire to make a difference in their students lives.

“I wanted to make a film that matters,” Claeys said. “The main point of this film is to communicate that the teaching profession is an honorable professional option for males, with many opportunities for advancement within all levels of education. Of course, we need life-long career teachers in the classroom that are passionate about what they do, and can continue to inspire other young boys to become teachers; but, it is also important for young boys to know that they could become administrators, counselors or diagnosticians to name a few.”

The film features five educators: Mr. Leandro Gonzalez, Mr. Jon Derrick Alvarez, Mr. Peter Martinez, Dr. Samuel Ebong and Dr. Edwin Barea-Rodriguez.

Gonzalez is a Language Arts and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Jones Middle School in Northside ISD (NISD), who taught special education and mathematics in San Antonio ISD for a few years before moving to NISD. He is a Navy veteran and first-generation college student who was raised in a transnational world, traveling back and forth between Texas and Mexico.

Alvarez is a mathematics teacher who has taught in various San Antonio ISD schools, which include Page Middle School, Irving Academy and presently Woodlawn Academy. Mr. Alvarez participated in UTSA’s Teacher Quality Algebra project, led by Dr. Emily Bonner from the department of interdisciplinary learning and teaching and funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Film Festival

Martinez is the Principal at MacArthur High School in North East ISD. He is a first-generation college student who graduated from Brackenridge High School, and he has also served as a classroom teacher, counselor and assistant principal. Mr. Martinez is currently enrolled in the Superintendent Certification Program at UTSA.

Ebong is a science specialist for Southside ISD. He moved to the U.S. from West Africa at the age of 21 to attend college. He enrolled in the ATEP program to promote the field of science among young ethnically-diverse learners.

Barea-Rodriguez is a neuroscientist and first-generation college student who moved to the mainland from Puerto Rico. He is presently the Associate Dean for Student Success and Instructional Innovation in the College of Sciences at UTSA. His area of specialization is in learning and memory as well as neuroscience and science education.

Claeys wants the film to be inspirational and hopes that every viewer will be able to gain something from it.

“I would like for young boys and men of color to be inspired to become teachers,”  Claeys said. “Whether they stay in the classroom at any level (Elementary, Secondary Schools, or in Higher Education) or they [could] branch out into many other options the field of education can offer.”

The film has received favorable reviews after its premiere at the 2018 San Antonio Film Festival, held in the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. According to Claeys, Jesus Miguel Garcia, a local videographer and film director, indicated that “the film was received well at the San Antonio Film Festival. [A sense of laughter] and emotion could be heard [and felt] in the room.” The featured educators have an agency in their passion for uplifting and inspiring educators, Latinos and males of color alike.

Claeys hopes that society can change as well. “I believe that teaching is a noble profession that helps form the character, values and the future of children,” Claeys said. “Often, children get discouraged from pursuing a teaching profession — especially boys — because teaching is not considered a profession with prestige or a profession that will offer a high salary compared to professions in applied science, technology, engineering or medicine.” This advice will hopefully inspire many to watch the movie themselves.

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