The Mayfield Community is a rich and diverse group of individuals with unique perspectives, varied passions and interests, and deep beliefs. Meet Juan Garcia, Spanish teacher, coach and 8th grade advisor.
You wear a lot of hats. Tell us about all your roles here.
My main role is Spanish teacher. I teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade Spanish and added kindergarten last year. I also coach - mostly seventh grade teams- basketball, volleyball, and softball, and for the last seven years, I have been an 8th grade and student council advisor. I also do set design for the drama department.
Which role do you feel is most fulfilling or most impactful?
Well, most impactful is being an 8th grade advisor. It is such a great year – a culmination of what the school has really done for these kids. The most fulfilling is set design and construction. I love using my hands, and I get to experiment creatively. I'm always exploring new ways and new ideas.
Who or what inspired you to become a teacher?
I didn't grow up saying, I'm going to be a teacher. I wanted to go into business, make money, and buy a house. But I still imagined myself back in the community - giving back. I am a first-generation immigrant. I came here when I was four and a half and grew up in Echo Park, in an inner-city, low-income family. Looking back, what kept me out of gang life, kept me off drugs, were my teachers. Teachers, who starting in fourth grade, never let me give up. Never let me be lazy or go down a bad path. After studying business in school, I somehow found myself with a job at Tom Sawyer Camp. The kids taught me so much – I think that experience really inspired me to continue to work with kids.
How do you feel teaching world languages has changed?
The emphasis has shifted more to communication, acquiring language as opposed to mastering language — understanding instead of memorization. I’d love to teach history one day. Delving into the history and culture when teaching language indulges that wish, while also providing deeper connections for students. History and culture make learning a language more alive.
You now teach Kindergarten Spanish. How is that different?
It's so different. Personally, it's rejuvenated my passion for teaching, because it's a whole different perspective, a whole different energy. Preparation is the most important with younger kids. In kindergarten, if I'm not prepared, it's chaos. I have to really be on my toes. I have to have quick short games or quick short lessons and keep moving. It really has forced me to organize myself a little better.
What qualities do you believe to be valuable for a teacher?
I think flexibility is the biggest thing. It is important because, at the end of the day, the students are why we're here. Compassion is also valuable. When a student reaches out or is not doing the work or missing assignments, it’s so important to try to understand and help.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That’s a hard question. I don't feel like I've done anything, although I have been a part of some great things. I like to think that I'm not there yet. Outside of the classroom and outside of education, I would love to one day be self-sufficient, live off the land, waste-free. Greatest achievement yet to come.
Do you have a favorite place or dream vacation?
When I was in college, I was lucky enough to study abroad, and I lived in Barcelona for a year. I backpacked all through Europe, went to Italy a bunch of times. I love traveling. Learning about culture is part of what I love about language. My wife went to Peru a few years before we met, and I think if we had a dream vacation, that's where we would go. Just anywhere in South America would be great to visit.
Is there a quote or saying you find meaningful?
“What you do in life echoes in eternity.” It is from the movie Gladiator. The words
remind me to stop, reflect, and restore my life in the right direction.