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UCLA

Bruin Named Teacher of the Year

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By Jesy Odio '15

Published Nov 18, 2013 8:00 AM


Jesús Gutierrez's students say he cares about their lives, as well as their academic achievement.

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Jesús Gutierrez, Jr. in class with his students

“When I came [to school here], I was too nervous,” says Amanda Cipres, a senior at Baldwin Park High School (BPHS) in Los Angeles County. She came to the school when she moved in with her aunt, and right away was placed in the English Language Development class to improve her English. The teacher was Bruin Jesús Gutierrez, Jr.,’01, B.A.; ’06, M.A. “When I came here to this room, I felt like it was my home, comfortable,” she says. “[Here] I feel like I can do anything, And I can talk with [Mr. Gutierrez] about my problems, about how I feel. He empowers me all the time to go to college and to improve my English.”

Many of Cipres’ classmates feel the same way, so it was no surprise to them when the Baldwin Park Unified School District named Gutierrez Teacher of the Year. And the Los Angeles Unified School District identified Mr. G, as his students like to call him, as one of the 16 best educators for 2013-2014 among the county’s 75,000 K-12 teachers.

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Jesús Gutierrez, Jr. in front of a UCLA banner in his classroom.

Perhaps Gutierrez has fostered his classroom into a space of acceptance and comfort because he understands the importance of family. One of six children, he grew up in Rowland Heights. His father, Jesús Sr., was a field worker, picking strawberries and lettuce, and then a construction worker, installing faucets and sinks. Meanwhile, to make ends meet, his mother, Teresa, cleaned houses.

“[My parents'] lives are what feed my passion for teaching these kids,” he says. “The fact that they have a language barrier doesn’t mean they don’t have an intellect.”

During Gutierrez’s first year at BPHS, 20 out of 21 English language learners passed the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). Most had been living in the United States for three years or less. When the tests results were so successful, Gutierrez produced a video with several students sharing their feelings on what it’s like to be an English Language Learner in Baldwin Park. He shared it with the school’s faculty and staff.

Gutierrez’s students are so inspired by his love for teaching that some are following in his footsteps. One who just graduated from UCLA told him, “The way you were with us—I want to be that with other students also.”

The teacher credits a lot of his work ethic to the UCLA Teacher Education Program (TEP). “[TEP] completely changed my perspective on humanity, on dignity, on self-respect, on respect for others,” says Gutierrez. “Now I’m giving the students… a sense of identity. That whatever they’ve been through, it’s valuable, it’s worth something.”

This story is based on an article in Ampersand, the online magazine of the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. To view the original full-length article, visit http://ucla.in/JyDudq.

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