From immigrant to teacher: LBCC adult basic education and GED programs put student on path to success
Growing up in Mexico, Monica Juarez-Hurtado dreamed of someday being a teacher.
When she moved to the United States at age 22, she knew accomplishing her dream meant first learning English.
With the help of Linn-Benton Community College, Juarez-Hurtado is accomplishing both goals. She graduated from LBCC in 2019 and is moving on to obtain her teaching degree from Western Oregon University.
“I started with English classes because when I came to this country, my English was zero percent. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t write anything,” said Juarez-Hurtado, now 31 and living in Albany.
She came to Albany because that’s her husband’s hometown, so LBCC was the natural choice for enrollment. But it was a long, hard, lonely struggle for a long time.
“Oh, it was really bad. Everything was different,” she said. “Sometimes I wanted to get out because I felt that I couldn’t do it.”
Quitting wasn’t really an option, however. Juarez-Hurtado didn’t want to give up on her goal, and her husband, Eric Lule - “Thanks to him, I have achieved a lot” - was supporting her all the way.
“When I was living in Mexico, my dream was, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a teacher,” she said. “In Mexico, I didn’t have the opportunity to study. When I came to this country, I found the opportunity, and I say YES.”
LBCC’s Adult Basic Skills and General Education Development programs put Juarez-Hurtado on the path to success. Antonia Huerta was especially helpful as Juarez-Hurtado worked on her GED studies.
“She is an excellent teacher,” Juarez-Hurtado remembered. “It was so hard, but I did my best. When I didn’t understand something, I would ask my teacher, can you repeat again, can you explain this, because I don’t understand. And my teacher says yes, yes, I can do this for you. Antonia is a really good person … now, she is an important person in my life.”
Marcia Walsh, who advised Juarez-Hurtado through her Child and Family Studies courses, also played a key role.
“My first class that I took in LBCC, I went to her because my problem was I couldn’t understand anything,” Juarez-Hurtado said. “I talked to her about language. She said, I understand this, it’s not easy for you, but when you have a question, please let me know or after class we can meet and we can talk about the class.”
Completing her GED in 2016 opened the way for Juarez-Hurtado to enroll in the education courses that would help her achieve her dream. She graduated with honors from the Child and Family Studies program and received two certifications: one in Child and Family Studies and the other in Childhood Care and Education.
Now, she gives private bilingual lessons in Corvallis to a handful of elementary-school children and tutors others in the LBCC GED program on Fridays and Saturdays. She hopes to have completed her degree at WOU in another two years.
“Can you feel my excitement? I am excited, because I remember this,” Juarez-Hurtado said. “These things are very important to me. I am very proud of me, because it was really hard. And now I am a bilingual teacher in a country that is not mine.”
Juarez-Hutado said she encourages everyone to follow their dreams, and to take advantage of the resources at the community college anytime they need help. The college’s writing center, math desk, computer classes and library were essential to her progress.
“I remember when I was taking my English classes, the vocabulary was easy. When I went to the college, wow. The vocabulary was very, very different. Sometimes I couldn’t understand anything,” she said. “I remember that I cried.”
“So this is my first thing,” she went on. “You need to try to learn college vocabulary. It’s really important to ask for help. LBCC has a lot of resources, and many people can help. And that is what I do. You have to keep in mind that this is really hard, but never give up. If you want to do it, never give up.”
Note: This story was covered in the Albany Democrat-Herald: Student follows LBCC path to become teacher