Antero Garcia (R) taught Roger Alvarez (L) in his 9th grade English class at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.
That year, the school’s graduation rate was just 42 percent, and Roger was one of the students who didn’t make it through his senior year.
Roger dropped out in 2007 and hadn’t seen his former teacher until the two of them sat down together at StoryCorps.
When they recorded this interview, Roger was working the night shift at a loading dock, and he said he hopes to get his GED one day. Antero Garcia is now an Assistant Professor of English at Colorado State University.
Click here for the transcript.
Roger Alvarez (RA): For sure?
RA: Ever since I started 9th grade. (Laughs)
AG: Oh really.
RA: There’s a certain amount of knowledge you have to have when you enter in a specific grade. And I didn't have it. Every class I used to go in I was like, “Do I know this? I don't know this. Nah, I'm not going to pass this class.”
RA: And um, it was, it was kind of shameful. You know. I don't know.
AG: What was shameful?
RA: You know, like, you were determined to help me, but what was I willing to give? I could have actually tried.
AG: I guess I'm curious how I could have reached out to you better.
RA: Well you always helped me. But I mean you could pump me up, and then I see other students doing way better. So then, I get nervous. I get stuck. And then my motivation goes to the floor.
AG: Did it feel hopeless?
RA: Yeah. You talked to me like if I could do it. But inside me I knew I couldn't. And you know, I just don't want you to think that I'm like, stupid.
AG: Wh-- Why did you agree to come talk to me today?
RA: I don't know. It's . . . I mean I see school as a tool in life. And all this time I've been missing that tool. It's not part of my belt. But I wanted like to explain myself to you now that I'm older. And always I just wanted you to know you were a good teacher and I always respected you. Some teachers I kind of felt like they only wanted to teach a certain group of people. But you looked at me and you paid attention. Maybe it didn't get me to graduate, but there’s a lot of teachers, they don’t take the time to take a look. And it was never your fault.