My name is Angel Rios. I was born in Los Angeles, California. Today I’ll tell a story about a time I was not an angel.
When I was young my family moved around quite a bit. I struggled in school and thought I had been born stupid. I have a clear memory of sitting in my second-grade classroom crying before a spelling test because I knew I was not prepared to spell “lunch” or any other word on the test.
Later that year, my family moved to a small coastal town in Oregon. It wasn’t long until I was sent to a testing location. Once the adults knew I was dyslectic, they set about trying to help me “catch up.” Their intentions were good, but their efforts drove me crazy. Then I realized that I had a learning disability, not a learning inability and that I had to take control of my education. At the tender age of eight “control” meant studying at the dining room table until my mom told me to go to bed.
The year I entered junior high my family moved back to Califonia, this time to the San Francisco Bay Area’s east bay town of Pleasant Hill. Computers were proliferating the campus and the adults were less interested in helping me (and that was fine by me). I continued to work hard on my education and it was paying off. I was earning decent grades in all my classes, not just special ed, and I was hungry to do even better. I had my eyes set on college. As eighth grade came to a close it was time to choose elective classes for high school. I had already completed two years of German in junior high and Frau Demonk was also the high school German teacher. I had my heart set on taking German II my freshman year. I wanted to fulfill my college language requirements in high school. As a special ed student, my classes had to be approved by the special ed teacher, a man who would not be following me to high school. He refused to sing off on my elective choice, “No special ed student has ever been successful in a foreign language class at the high school level.”
I’m not sure if I was angry because he grouped me in with every other student he’d had, or if I was angry because I felt he was erasing my dream. What I do know is that I wanted to stab him with the eraser end of my pencil. Instead, I used that eraser to remove German II from my paper and gave it back to him. At that point in my academic carrer, I could count on my teachers telling my mother, “Angel is such an angel. I wish I had more students like her in my class.” Eraser man was one such teacher. Maybe that’s why he didn’t use his blue bic pen to cross out the empty lines on my form. Maybe that’s why he signed the paper and gave it back to me to turn into the office. What I do know is that I’d never heard the word “integrity”, and I really wanted to be in German II.
Later that afternoon I rewrote German II on the elective form and turned it in. When I picked up my high school class schedule, German II was on there. The class was difficult, but I wasn’t going to let Eraser man be right. I was going to make it. And I did.