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EO first learned about Maestra Lidia Reguerin through an email invitation to attend a dinner in her honor to be held on January 19, 2013 at the Alum Rock Youth Center located on White Road just west of Alum Rock Avenue. A preliminary ‘due diligence’ search revealed that Maestra Reguerin had been responsible for the development of a unique English as a Second Language teaching methodology designed to meet the needs of immigrant Latino students. Today, many Latinos need to undertake ‘Spanish as a second language’ because from prekindergarten on all of their classroom instruction is presented in the English language.
Getting back to Maestra Lidia Reguerin, back in the 1980’s amnesty period, 40 hours of instruction in the English language were required to permit undocumented individuals, mainly ‘illegal Mexican immigrants’ (campesinos), who were Spanish language dependent. That is to say that Spanish was the only language they knew and used to communicate at home and on the job. The amnesty legislation left the learning of English language up to the individual. Senora Lidia Reguerin discerned that something needed to be done so she began teaching English to two or three individuals at a time in her home. It was not long before she learned that there were many campesinos that had no funds, but still needed English language instruction. So, being a person who addressed challenging problems, she asked her local Methodist church rector to permit the use of one of that church’s meeting rooms. On the first day of scheduled English language instruction by Maestra Reguerin, 7 individuals attended; on the second day, 35 attended and on the third day more than 100 individuals showed up only to overwhelm the facility.
Understand that all this effort on the part of Sra. Lidia Reguerin, occurred without any school or agency offering to pay her a salary or offering to pay the costs of having a classroom operation in her home or at the church. There were supplies and other instructional materials to be created and duplicated to enable each individual student to have a personal set of instructional materials.
Acceptable amnesty documentation submittals permitted many campesinos to qualify for their ‘Green Card’ which permitted legal residency and a work permit. Over the years thousands of local individuals, mostly campesinos, took advantage of Maestra Reguerin’s ESL instruction without paying for her time and instructional talent. It has always been her belief that “teaching is an act of love” that kept Maestra Lidia with the determination to keep teaching no matter what.
Alum Rock Union School District officials heard about her efforts, monitored them for a while, and then hired Maestra Lidia Reguerin to teach English to the parents of their Spanish language dependent students. It was in these actions both by Maestra Reguerin and school officials that residents of the Mayfair neighborhood were able to take advantage of English as a Second Language classes. After a year or so, ARUSD released Maestra Reguerin from her ‘instrucitonal role’ at ARUSD schools. However, Maestra Reguerin continued to teach at a local church meeting room. This activity eventually developed into the current Escuela Popular, where presently it is her daughter, Paticia Reguerin, who is the Executive Director, Escuela Popular today, some 26 years later.
Now understand that this accomplished woman, with support from her husband Jorge Reguerin, raised 3 sons and daughter, all of whom have an education. The younger siblings attended U.C. Santa Cruz and Columbia University; another, Santa Clara University, and a third son attended San Jose State University. And with her pasion and love for teaching, she instructed many impoverished persons to learn English which enabled better jobs, wages, and a better life for their families, many of whom still live locally. Maestra Lidia’s vision is larger than just learning English; it is to liberate oneself through education.
EO’s staff interviewed Maestra Reguerin by phone. When asked what counsel should local Latino youth hear, she said, “Learn your Spanish language even if you have to take Spanish as a second language classes because you must understand the native Mexican culture you possess and reconcile it with the dominant American culture you presently live in.” Here is a Latina woman who is a success in every way. She has a passion for teaching and used her time and talent to teach not only English as a Second language but also to dream big and work hard to realize those dreams. The outcome is that she is an ESL instructional pioneer who deserves gratitude, recognitions, and admiration for her life’s work teaching ESL successfully to many thousands who lived in the East San Jose Community.
Plan to attend that dinner in her honor on January 19, 2013, 6:00 PM at the Alum Rock Youth Center. If you cannot attend, but know that your family benefited from her teaching English language to your parents, family members, or even yourself, plan to contribute to the Maestra Lidia Reguerin’s Escuela Popular Student Fund, at Escuela Popular, 149 N. White Road, San Jose, CA 95127.