Introducing Jasmin Sánchez-López since 2019 she has been the Principal of Lauer’s Park Elementary School in Reading, Pa. During 2004 to 2019 she was a Spanish teacher, an ESL teacher, and the Assistant Principal at 13th and Green Elementary School. She was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 1981 to her parents Justo Sánchez Gómez and Josephine Sánchez, both Puerto Rican parents.
They came to Reading in 1990, at that time, the Reading School District did not provide what they called the bilingual program in all elementary schools. She was in a classroom of fourth and fifth grade students as they were able to provide English learning services. They then moved to the Wyomissing School District where there were fewer resources for students who did not speak English.
PM: What Made You Understand the Importance of Education?
JSL: I come from a long heritage oriented to service to others. My mom was a teacher in Puerto Rico and my dad was a police officer. On my father’s side, I have 16 uncles and aunts, of whom there were six police officers, three teachers, a medical technologist, a chemist, a service engineer, a school canteen manager, a factory worker, and a farmer. My maternal aunt is a retired special education teacher.
Although my paternal family has very humble beginnings in which they knew poverty, that did not serve as an impediment to the perseverance of education. An example that has inspired me in my work is that of my aunt, Maritza. It is said that months before she was due to study at the university, my grandfather passed away, leaving my grandmother a widow with 14 minor children to support. Titi Maritza, being the eldest of her daughters, was conceited that she should stay to help her mother. However, with grandmother’s blessing, Titi went to university and later worked as a teacher. Of course, Abuela sacrificed herself for others, but Titi with her example paved the way for her younger siblings as well.
PM: What have you worked on previously? And Is This a Job or A Calling?
JSL: From the age of 12 until I had my first son, Jossian, I was a catechism teacher for the children at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Reading. My first money job was while I was in high school. I worked at the Olivet Boys and Girls Club in Oakbrook where I taught guitar. While I had many examples in my family of teachers, that’s when I myself began to love the vocation. When I graduated from high school, I went to Dickinson College where I graduated to practice as a Spanish teacher. I have never seen being a teacher, assistant principal, or principal as a job but as a call from God to love. As a single mother, it is a daily balance of exercising a loving vocation at home and at work. I see how my children follow the example that I am giving them. I feel a greater responsibility towards them in everything I do.
PM: What Are the Benefits of Having a Bilingual Principal?
JSL: The need for bilingual staff in the Reading community is great. We have many families who prefer to communicate in Spanish. By feeling more comfortable, it allows them to express themselves in confidence, but they can also be more active in their children’s education. Language and culture are no longer a barrier since they can go directly to the director. I think we understand each other better on different levels, as I have been through similar challenges and can better help in many areas of how to manage the education system.
Something that many do not know is that when I got married my ex-husband was undocumented. Therefore, I also have the knowledge and I know many of the challenges that exist with the immigration system. Many of the experiences I have lived inspire me to better serve the community in which I work. I have a greater interest in seeing our community flourish, as I know with the necessary resources it is entirely possible. Maybe not easy, but possible.
PM: Do We Need More Bilingual Programs in Reading Schools?
JSL: I think being bilingual is very important everywhere we go. Bilingual education programs not only recognize that importance, but also promote it for all of their students. When a student does not know English, it is not seen as a deficit. For students who are learning English, they have the benefit of continuing their studies, in many cases in the native language, for example, Spanish, while learning English. This alleviates the stress that many children and youth experience when beginning to settle in the United States for the first time. In Berks County, we are limited to promoting bilingual education programs since the faculty does not have the capacity to support such a program by only speaking English.
“I grew up with that model not only of service to others, but that education is the vehicle to improve oneself and help others.” –Jasmin Sanchez Lopez
Rosa J. Parra
Editor & Founder of Palo Magazine