Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) recently asked Paola Parobok, an ENL staff member at Harshman Middle School, what National Hispanic Heritage Month means to her.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
Now in her second year at IPS as a dual language teacher who is working hard to expand bilingualism at Harshman, Parobok was born in Orange, California to parents who immigrated from Mexico. She returns to Mexico as often as possible to visit with her abuelos (grandmothers).
Q—In your opinion, why is it important to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Hispanic and Latino individuals in our community and throughout the country?
A—It is important to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos because there is a lot to celebrate! We have a lot of famous Latinos like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Isabel Allende, etc. Our ancestors fought for a better future, and here we are living their dreams.
Q—Can you share any personal or professional experiences that have highlighted the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month for you?
A—As a first-generation Latina, whose parents immigrated from Mexico, I am their hope and dreams. They did not have a lot of opportunities for a good education, barely finishing middle and high school. My parents gave me everything they could while I was growing up, and now as an educator, I feel it is my duty to pay it back to them. And help motivate future generations to take their education more seriously so doors can open to better opportunities.
Q—How do you believe we can better incorporate National Hispanic Heritage Month as an educational opportunity for our students?
A—I believe we can always teach more about our culture. There is a rich history and traditions within the Latino community that most people are not aware of. I remember when I first moved here from California, there was no Cesar Chavez Day nor did people know much about his contributions to American history. Students should also be exposed to more Latino artists aside from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Hispanic Heritage Month can be celebrated in social studies, math, science, art, music, and Spanish classes.
Q—Do you feel that our school district adequately represents and includes the Hispanic community in our educational programs and initiatives?
A—I think we are getting better at being more inclusive and representing the Hispanic community. There is always room for growth. I know currently we are looking for ways at our school to get parents involved. If it means spending a couple of hours after school to teach parents some English to get them involved in their child’s education, we should find more resources for that.
Q—On a personal level, Is there a particular Hispanic figure or accomplishment that has inspired or influenced you?
A—One Hispanic figure that I think has influenced me the most is Shakira. Not only because I grew up listening to her, but also because she taught herself to speak seven languages. I cannot yet speak seven languages, but I am always eager to learn. She inspires me to go beyond what is required and further my knowledge. We can NEVER stop learning.