Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) recently asked Walter Feshold, who moved to Indiana just a few years ago and now teaches Spanish to middle school students at the Sidener Academy, what National Hispanic Heritage Month means to him.
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.
Born in Puerto Rico, Feshold came to Indiana in 2015 at the age of 46 to teach and in 2021 joined the staff at the Sidener Academy.
Q—What does Hispanic Awareness Month mean to you?
A—In a country so diverse as the USA, there will be labels as majority and minority. Through HAM—short for Hispanic Awareness Month—Hispanics get the opportunity to be recognized for their accomplishments or just for their coexistence and for being part of this nation.
Q—What do you think people should know about being Hispanic?
A – Being Hispanic is just like being from any other ethnic or national group of people. We are humans, and we coexist with everyone else on planet Earth. I can add that being Hispanic also means having strong family values, and being proud of our heritage, and especially, when you live in a non-Hispanic country, we love to show off our culture to preserve it for future generations.
Q—How does being Hispanic influence your job at IPS?
A—Being Hispanic is the definition of my work here at IPS. I’m an advocate for Hispanic families and a supporter of our culture. I like to be that teacher who always supports them and is there as a role model for Hispanic students.
Q—How are you helping youngsters make the adjustment to the American culture?
A—Being an immigrant since 2015 motivated me to write a book for young readers. It’s a trilogy called El Cemí Mágico/The Magical Cemi in bilingual format. I have published books one and two. It’s the story of a Puerto Rican girl who emigrates to America with her parents and travels back to the island during summertime to visit her family. She finds a Cemi, a ceremonial artifact from the Taino people (the original people of the island), with magical powers. The reader will learn about the Taino people as well as the struggles of the Puerto Rican people who come to the U.S. The final book will be published next summer.
Q—Who was your most influential Hispanic person or family member growing up?
A—Roberto Clemente, period. He is a hero for all Puerto Ricans. He was a great baseball player and a better human being. Dying helping the Nicaraguan people after a deadly earthquake made him a martyr. He even was a voice for the black and Hispanic communities as a professional athlete. I was too young to see him playing, but his figure is still ubiquitous for all Puerto Ricans.
(Note: Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, died in a plane crash at 38 on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He played for Pittsburgh and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first player from Latin America to be enshrined in Cooperstown.)