Compiled by Len Feldman
Assembly Member Jose Medina
Voters of California’s 61st Assembly District (including Riverside, Moreno Valley, Perris and Mead Valley) elected Jose Medina to represent them in November 2012. Medina is a member of the growing “teacher caucus” in the Legislature. For more than 35 years, he taught high school in the Riverside Unified School District. A proud member of the Riverside City Teachers Association, he served as a CTA State Council of Education member prior to his election to the Jurupa Unified School District Board of Education and then the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees.
What did you do before becoming a lawmaker?
I was a teacher for 35 years, starting from kindergarten through community college. I was a member of the Riverside City Teachers Association and a representative to CTA’s State Council. I taught various subjects, including Spanish, history, government, economics, and Chicano and ethnic studies. The most rewarding part of teaching was seeing students blossom and move forward with their goals. It is a pleasure to stay in touch with my students and be able to see them grow.
What led you to run for office?
As a teacher, I saw the importance of the political process and education. The decisions made in Sacramento have a direct effect on the districts, schools and classroom. I have a passion for education as both a K-12 teacher and community college trustee. I wanted to bring my experience and focus on strengthening education. I believe that government can have a positive effect on members of the community and the state overall.
Who was the teacher who had the greatest impact on you?
I have had many great teachers. One who comes to mind is Mr. William Gansen, my government and economics teacher during my senior year at Cristobal High School in Panama. He made government and economics interesting and challenged us to think critically. I appreciated the way he incorporated current events into his teaching and truly valued his students’ opinions. Mr. Gansen was not afraid to tackle controversial issues, and as I stepped into my first political science class in college, I remember thinking he had prepared me well. He taught “outside of the box” and was not afraid to be different.
What steps should the Legislature take to help schools succeed?
The Legislature needs to help teachers and schools succeed with implementing the Common Core State Standards by providing them with resources, allowing teachers more freedom to teach and less teaching to the test. I am pleased with the direction of the new Local Control Funding Formula because education decisions made at the local level and closer to the classroom tend to fare better.
What are your hopes or goals for public education?
Public education is the backbone of our country. The public school system has often been a ladder to success, especially for immigrant students, and I want to see it continue in that role. I want to strengthen the public education system and give teachers the dignity and respect they deserve. I spent my teaching career in the public education system, and I value the experiences I gained.
Any advice for teachers?
My advice to teachers is to never lose sight of the impact you have on your students. We must always keep this in mind. That said, educators should build a relationship with their legislators. Let them hear from you. Express your concerns and suggestions. A great idea would be to invite your legislator to your school and classroom. Let your voices be heard.
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