Born in Yucatan, Mexico, Jose Perez-Gonzalez is a man who wears many hats – from working as a translator for the French army to serving in cultural attaché department of South Korea.
Today he is a professor of modern languages teaching Spanish and writing courses for the University of La Verne.
While working for the American embassy, Perez-Gonzalez had the opportunity to travel to almost every continent.
His work started as a translator for the French army where he got a grasp of foreign languages.
“The French army career was what taught me to learn language,” Perez-Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a foreign language or not, it’s just knowledge and they teach you how to use it.”
After three years as a translator, Perez-Gonzalez moved to Algeria in northern Africa as a curriculum developer for an Islamic university, a teacher’s preparation university and the Central University of Algiers.
Perez-Gonzalez’s next calling was working as a volunteer with children in a rehabilitation center in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“For two years I worked as a health volunteer working with children in a rehabilitation center,” Perez-Gonzalez said. “My job was to find money to send Kazak children to other countries to receive rehabilitation from muscle disorders and atrophies.”
Moving from country to country, Perez-Gonzalez became fluent in five languages: Spanish, English, French, American Sign Language and Mandarin Chinese.
He began learning Mandarin Chinese while teaching english in Tanggu, China. But his time in China was cut short when he received a job in South Korea from the American embassy working in the cultural attaché department.
“With the cultural attaché department, it was usually based on mutual understanding between cultures through education,” Perez-Gonzalez said. “I did a lot of planning of cultural events for the people to understand and get to know Americans.”
Perez-Gonzalez said he learned a great deal about cultures, languages and traditions from the different countries he had the privilege to work in.
“These experiences that I have had help me deliver information and knowledge to students at La Verne who have somewhat of a background to where I have been to,” Perez-Gonzalez said.
“I’ve met students from the countries I have worked in, and I was able to target and use what I know about their country to deliver the information and be relatable and tangible to students, so they can understand the class.”
His vast knowledge of different languages is what makes him the perfect teacher for a language class, according to undeclared sophomore Jenny Formica.
“Due to his large knowledge of foreign languages, he is able to compare them and teach us not only one, but how others speak as well,” said Formica.
Another relatable attribute Perez-Gonzalez shows to students is his sense of humor, as he jokes with them.
“He uses humor educationally, and he’s very entertaining but he teaches very well and he’s patient and understanding when it comes to the assignments,” child development sophomore Ivana Cantuna said.
“He’s very lenient when it comes to school work and he is always there to work with you for research papers.”
Recently Perez-Gonzalez has been dedicating his time working with men’s correctional facility in downtown Los Angeles, teaching writing classes.
“I assign the same type of writing from schools to prisons but I just switch it up so it fits a correctional facility better,” Perez-Gonzalez said.
“So when the inmates find out they become surprised that they’re able to use the same techniques as college students.”
The best part about teaching for a correctional facility is everyone has a story, Perez-Gonzalez said.
It may not be a positive one, but it gives you access to where they have been and he learns a lot from their past mistakes.
Although Perez-Gonzalez has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the Cal Poly Pomona he believes his degrees do not define him.
“Educators at La Verne have degrees and doctorates, but it’s not about how many degrees you have: It’s about how affective you are to your audience,” he said.
“Education is a bidirectional issue, you learn as much from the students as they learn from you.”
Michael Saakyan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.