National Teachers Archives - StoryCorps

Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda and Serena Castañeda

Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda grew up in Salinas, California, in the late 1960s. Her mother, Beatriz Béltran, was an immigrant from Mexico, and her father, Manuel, worked both as a foreman at a food packing plant and as an overseer of migrant farm workers.


Their family of seven lived in a small trailer, but by working multiple jobs, Manuel was able to save enough money to buy a plot of land on which he built a house. Alicia vividly recalls sitting on a 1950s metal stool in their living room, watching her father paint some of the walls goldenrod, and others Pepto-Bismol pink.

Manuel died when Alicia was 13, leaving their mother to raise the children alone.

Beatriz began working for the Salinas City Elementary School District as a bilingual liaison for Spanish-speaking families and the administration, and later became a coordinator for migrant worker families. Through her job, she saw the poverty many migrant families lived in.

Alicia was not as familiar with the lives of migrant farmworkers until she came home one day to find that her bed was missing—she was furious. With all of her older siblings away at college, Alicia had finally gotten her own room, and she loved her bed, which had a pink cover and lace dust ruffle. When she confronted her mother, Beatriz explained that she had given the bed to a family that had recently arrived in California from Mexico, and Alicia remembers telling her mother that she did not understanding why that was her problem. Without explanation, Beatriz told her to fill shopping bags with canned food from their pantry.

Together they drove to a house where Alicia’s bed now was, a one-room shack with a dirt floor like the ones occupied by so many other migrant worker families. There they met a woman who was laying on Alicia’s bed with her newborn baby surrounded by her four other children.

At StoryCorps, Alicia told her own daughter, Serena, 13, how meaningful that experience was for her.

Originally aired November 18, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of Beatriz Beltrán courtesy of Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda.

John Cruitt and Cecile Doyle

It was just two days before Christmas in 1958 when John Cruitt’s mother died after a serious illness.

He was a student in Cecile Doyle’s third grade class at the time.

More than 50 years later, John tracked down his former teacher, to tell her how she helped him through that difficult time.

Originally aired December 28, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Ken Rensink and Laurel Hill-Ward

When Ken Rensink was 19 years old, he enlisted in the US Army Reserves and completed training.

The day after he returned home, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and was in an accident that almost took his life.

Now, almost 30 years later, he’s teaching special education to 11th and 12th graders in Williams, California.

Ken came to StoryCorps with his friend Laurel Hill-Ward to talk about how surviving this accident has influenced his teaching.

Originally aired October 5, 2012 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Tierra Jackson and John Horan

Growing up, Tierra Jackson struggled through the Chicago school system.

As a teenager, she enrolled in a high school where John Horan was the dean.

John invited Tierra, who is now 23, back to the school to sit down for StoryCorps.

Originally aired September 21, 2012 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Tyrese Graham and Tania Kostova

Tyrese Graham is a second year science teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on the West Side of Chicago. When he started teaching, Marshall was among the worst public schools in the city. At StoryCorps, Tyrese talked with his girlfriend, Tania Kostova, about his first day on the job.

Originally aired May 27, 2012 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Kate Musick and Harleé Patrick, Jose Catalan and Carlos Vizcarra

For students who are struggling, sometimes the difference between success and failure can start when a teacher takes the time to listen.

In these two stories from our National Teacher’s Initiative, teachers go beyond the classroom to help their students.

In 2004, Kate Musick (top left) was teaching third grade at T.C. Walker Elementary school in Gloucester, Virginia. When Harleé Patrick (top right) walked into the room Musick saw a troubled child.

Harleé is now a teenager, and the two came to StoryCorps to talk about how she made it through that year.


The second story comes from Los Angeles, where 19-year-old Jose Catalan (above right), who is studying to become a math teacher, sat down with his former high school teacher Carlos Vizcarra (above left) to talk about how they became friends.

Originally aired April 29, 2012 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Clairene Terry and Raul Bravo

21-year-old Raul Bravo is an auto mechanic at a car dealership in Chicago.

Back when he started high school, Raul never thought he’d have a career working on cars.

But then Raul met Clairene Terry, an Automotive Technology teacher at Schurz high school.

At StoryCorps, Raul told Clairene just how close to dropping out he was when he enrolled in her class.

Originally aired March 25, 2012 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Ron Cushman and Jamie Marks

Ron Cushman spent nearly 30 years teaching kindergarten in Bothell, Washington, a suburb outside of Seattle.

But he hadn’t always planned on becoming a teacher.

As Ron told his former student, Jamie Marks, his journey to the kindergarten classroom began when he was wounded in Vietnam.


Originally aired February 26, 2012 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Photo: Ron showing off his prosthetic arm to students. Courtesy of Ron Cushman

Roger Alvarez and Antero Garcia

Antero Garcia (right) taught Roger Alvarez (left) 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.

Originally aired January 29, 2012, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

John Hunter, Julianne Swope and Irene Newman

When John Hunter started teaching more than 30 years ago, he wanted to get his students to think about major world issues.

So he invented the World Peace Game. Students are divided into countries, then Hunter gives them a series of global crises — natural disasters, political conflicts — that they solve by collaborating with each other.

Hunter’s classes are remarkably successful at resolving the crises peacefully, a fact made all the more remarkable because his students are in 4th grade.

Hunter recently sat down for StoryCorps with a two former World Peace Game players: 11-year-old Julianne Swope (top photo) and 20-year-old Irene Newman (bottom photo).


Originally aired December 25, 2011 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.