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HomeEducationDenver’s North Excessive college students: ‘We would like our trainer again’

Denver’s North Excessive college students: ‘We would like our trainer again’

North Excessive College senior Martin Castañon grew up in a neighborhood the place most individuals regarded like him. However now, he mentioned, white newcomers deal with him with irritation, after they have been those who “got here into my neighborhood, tearing my tradition away from me.”

North Excessive’s choice to not rehire trainer Tim Hernández, who taught English, Latinx literature, and a Latinx management class, together with main a scholar membership, looks like one more blow for the majority-Latino college students at a faculty serving one in every of Denver’s most gentrified neighborhoods.

“It’s unhappy. It’s miserable,” Martin mentioned. “It’s such as you go from a lot shade and a lot pleasure to a lot despair and darkness. It sucks to get that taken away from you.”

Hernández grew up on Denver’s Northside and started instructing at North Excessive final faculty 12 months. He was employed once more this faculty 12 months on a one-year contract. When he utilized to proceed instructing at North subsequent 12 months, Hernández mentioned he was not rehired.

In an announcement, Denver Public Colleges didn’t handle why Hernández was not rehired. The assertion mentioned the district is dedicated to recruiting and retaining certified academics of shade, and it’s as much as every faculty’s personnel committee, which at North consists of Principal Scott Wolf, to determine which academics are employed. If the committee can’t come to consensus, the principal has the ultimate say, in accordance with the trainer’s union contract.

A male teacher sits outside a high school. He is wearing a Black T-shirt that says “DCTA” and his arms are tattooed.

Instructor Tim Hernández poses close to North Excessive College earlier this month.

AAron Ontiveroz / The Denver Submit

Hernández’s college students mentioned it’s been devastating to lose the trainer who taught them concerning the Chicano motion, Colorado scholar activists like Los Seis de Boulder, and the West Excessive blowouts of 1969, when Denver college students protested racism and discrimination. Hernández saved a fridge that college students from the membership stocked with free groceries. His classroom was adorned with flags and a hand-painted banner that mentioned “casa de la cultura.”

“Within the partitions of our constructing, we all know our tradition will not be centered anyplace else,” Hernández mentioned of North Excessive, “but it surely was in my room.”

District and state information present 75% of Denver college students are college students of shade. However solely 29% of academics are academics of shade. Hispanic or Latino college students make up 52% of the district inhabitants, however solely 19% of Denver academics are Hispanic or Latino. 

“That is greater and has all the time been greater than Mr. Hernández,” mentioned North Excessive freshman Nayeli López, who’s a part of the membership, known as SOMOS MECHA. “The explanation we speak about him a lot is as a result of he’s one of many solely academics of shade on the faculty. As a result of retaining academics of shade isn’t simply providing them a job, it’s making this a secure place for them.”

Over the previous a number of weeks, North Excessive college students have held a sit-in and two walkouts to demand the varsity rehire Hernández. On Thursday, roughly 50 college students and supporters marched to the district’s downtown headquarters, the place they chanted, “Who do we wish? Mr. Hernández! The place do we wish him? At North Excessive!” About 20 folks signed as much as speak about Hernández and North at Thursday evening’s faculty board assembly.

On the finish of the assembly, the board voted unanimously to take away Hernández from the record of academics being “non-renewed.” Superintendent Alex Marrero mentioned that whereas that doesn’t imply Hernández shall be reinstated at North Excessive, “we are going to help him on his journey to discovering one other place inside DPS subsequent 12 months.” 

Chalkbeat spoke to 4 college students — Nayeli, Martin, senior Daniela Urbina-Valle, and junior Viridiana Sanchéz — about Hernández and the necessity for Denver Public Colleges to rent and retain extra academics who’re Black, Indigenous, and folks of shade. Right here’s what they mentioned.

Four high school students pose in a park. They stand with their arms crossed.

(From left to proper) North Excessive College college students Nayeli López, Martin Castañon, Daniela Urbina-Valle, and Viridiana Sanchéz.

Melanie Asmar / Chalkbeat

What have your experiences been with having BIPOC academics at school? 

Martin: I’ve solely had about two academics, complete, of shade. … Mr. Hernández was one of many solely academics that was actually true about having Brown satisfaction. It’s type of unlucky that we will’t actually study our tradition by way of academics. … Bringing in academics of shade would assist us lots. We are able to’t discover out who we really are if we don’t know the place we got here from.

Viridiana: Lastly having a trainer that talked precisely such as you did, that had a background story precisely like yours, it was eye-opening. It was so refreshing.

Nayeli: I used to be raised round a group the place it was folks from the Chicano motion and that group. That’s what I used to be raised in, however I by no means heard it in a faculty setting. 

Daniela: Even after we do have these academics that seem like us, they’re anticipated to evolve to a system that was made by a white man. … Loads of occasions the white man thinks schooling is about management, and Mr. Hernández taught us all that that’s not true. 

What did you study in Mr. Hernández’s courses? And the way did you are feeling? 

Martin: I realized who I used to be. I realized what it meant to be Chicano. Coming from straight-up Mexican mother and father, the time period Chicano isn’t actually taken frivolously. It’s a very completely different definition from what it truly is. To them, Chicano is lazy, somebody who lives off the system. That’s not what it was meant to be. Chicano is about Brown energy. 

The primary few weeks of college, [Mr. Hernández] took us to the reunion of West [High School]. That’s not solely what it was, it was a celebration from the West blowouts that occurred. That was the very first thing I realized about Brown folks have been these issues from Mr. Hernández.

Nayeli: I truly met Mr. Hernández on the West Excessive occasion. My dad [Denver City Clerk and former city council member Paul López] was an alumni at West Excessive College and he needed to communicate there. I used to be the one child who was like, “Dang, I’m from North and I’m at my rival faculty.” 

That’s once I noticed a giant group of scholars marching in with an indication that mentioned “From North to West, Chicano Energy.” And proper there, I used to be like, “Oh my God, how cool is that?” I’d by no means heard the phrases “Chicano energy” exterior of my dwelling. 

Daniela: My mother was born in Mexico and my dad was born in Nicaragua so I’m a first-generation youngster. … It was not regular for me to say I used to be Chicana as a result of that’s fallacious of their eyes. … [Hernández] taught us to be proud by exhibiting us the historical past. … It’s not simply Cesar Chavez. It’s not simply Dolores Huerta. It’s extra than simply these folks.

Viridiana: I met Mr. Hernández originally of the 12 months. … I bear in mind telling him how a lot I hated being in AP Language as a result of I didn’t join with the curriculum. Everyone within the class was white. There have been solely three folks of shade, together with myself, and it felt horrible. I felt very alienated in there.

He informed me he taught Latinx literature and that it was so enjoyable. … The second I stepped in there, it felt welcoming, it felt like there was a group, and he simply needed you to be genuine.


North Excessive College.

Melanie Asmar / Chalkbeat

What would you like the adults in energy in Denver Public Colleges to know?

Nayeli: We would like our trainer again. … That’s not only a trainer to us. That’s a secure particular person. … Him being one of many solely Northside Chicanos at North Excessive College, that’s a giant help system. 

Martin: Not solely do we wish our trainer again, however we wish extra academics who seem like him, who symbolize their tradition. We don’t need individuals who simply seem like us that don’t symbolize us to the fullest. 

Daniela: Inclusivity and variety isn’t LGBTQ+ Historical past Month or Black Historical past Month. … North thinks that they’re someway making that an inclusive means of supporting us. However that’s under no circumstances an inclusive solution to help us. 

Martin: It’s like we’re an inconvenience to them. 

Nayeli: It’s like we’re written on a notepad after which tossed away.

Daniela: I do know individuals who have mentioned they will be a part of ethnic research courses to counselors or AP academics and so they say, “That’s not good on your transcript.’” … I don’t suppose us studying and appearing on the place we come from is one thing that makes us look dangerous to schools. I don’t suppose that’s what needs to be informed to us by our academics.

Viridiana: We’ve been known as “troubled children.” Or that academics know methods to deal with “children like us” as a result of they’re labored at different faculties the place the vast majority of the inhabitants is “children like us.”

Martin: It’s all the time “you folks.”

Viridiana: We’ve reported it and mentioned one thing, however nothing ever will get executed.

Nayeli: The identical children that academics and a variety of directors consider as “troubled,” academics like Mr. Hernández see us as children who’re going to get someplace in life.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, overlaying Denver Public Colleges. Contact Melanie at



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