Longtime educator connects with migrant students, families through pandemic

Blog entry
Joe Mendoza with microphone

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, we checked in with CalSTRS member Joe I. Mendoza.

When we talked to Mendoza for Teacher Talk earlier this year, he was enjoying working at the Ventura County Office of Education after 63 years as an educator. And he still is today, months into the pandemic.

When schools first shut down, the director of the Special Populations Educational Support program stayed in the office while he sent everyone else home. He’s still in the office, but now Mendoza leaves at 2 p.m. and goes to the local food share, where he collects boxes of food and delivers them to needy migrant families.

“Obviously, for the first time in my 63 years, the schools are closed and the children are home,” Mendoza said. “I created a computer program for the students who had computers, but I also added a telephone program which allowed the teachers to speak directly with the student and parent, too. Both programs were very successful, and I hope to continue it when school begins.”

He’s worried about his students and families.

“I am struggling most with my middle and high school students because they are all not staying home,” Mendoza said. “Instead, my students are out in the fields picking and trying to earn money to help the family. Also, the families live in apartments and other dwellings with too many of them in one dwelling. It is too crowded, and, of course, I have many with the virus, which adds to their already difficult position.

“If the virus has done anything for me, it has made clearer the challenges of trying to educate the poor, especially the children. The adults will adjust in some way, but the children are traumatized and worried about their very existence. I have always known that the children with whom I work were facing many barriers, but this pandemic has brought it close for me to see and experience.”

We appreciate and admire Joe Mendoza and all of our dedicated members. You inspire us to uphold the CalSTRS mission to secure the financial future and sustain the trust of California’s educators. To share your own experiences teaching during COVID-19, please email Communications@CalSTRS.com with Teacher Talk in the subject line.