Family of 4 in hallway
Julio Garcia (second from left) with his wife and parents at Teach For America's 25th Anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C.

Why We Couldn't Be Prouder That Our Son Decided to Teach

To kick off Teacher Appreciation Week, the parents of Julio Garcia (RGV '13) share why they're thankful for the impact teachers have had on their son—as well as Julio's choice to enter the classroom himself.
Monday, May 2, 2016

Julio Garcia was the first in his family to attend a four-year college, but his feel-good story was almost over before it began. “I was struggling,” he remembers of his initial days at the Ohio State University.

“It was my first time being homesick. My GPA ended up dropping below 2.5 and I was on academic probation. It was the first time I faced adversity in school.” So, the native of Roma, Texas, did what most people wouldn’t: he called his 8th grade U.S. History teacher from Ramiro Barrera Middle School.

Though Stephen de Man (Rio Grande Valley ’04, pictured below with Julio) no longer resided in the Lone Star State, he immediately offered to buy his former student a plane ticket to fly in from Ohio and sort things out.

Two teachers pointing at sign next to door

“He was living in Washington, D.C., at the time, so I even got to hang out with him for a weekend over there,” Julio says. “I was always accustomed to having my support system at home. But to see how people still had my back—especially my teachers—really inspired me. It helped me grow, and I got through it a stronger person.”

Julio’s parents, Maribel and Julian Garcia (pictured at the top of the page with him and his wife), witnessed firsthand the impact that educators could have on their son’s life. Due to the necessity of taking a job near Louisville, Kentucky—over a thousand miles away—to provide for his family, Julian would spend long stretches away from Julio.

“I was working a lot, so I appreciate his teachers helping him get through school and helping him do his best,” Julian says.

Maribel, a nurse’s aide at the elementary school that Julio and his brothers attended, was also a staunch advocate of excelling in the classroom. However, even she would admit that her son would need an extra helping hand to realize his goals after high school.

“I am so grateful for all his teachers,” Maribel says. “I have a big family so we always support each other, but it’s one thing when you have all these teachers helping him with things we didn’t know about, like financial aid and applying for college.”

Above all, Mr. de Man was Julio’s role model in the classroom.

Teacher with arm around student

“All he would talk about as a kid was 'Mr. de Man this, Mr. de Man that,' ” Maribel recalls. “He was always there for Julio.”

Ultimately, Julio would come of age in Mr. de Man’s class.

“That was the year my whole demeanor changed,” Julio states. “He pushed me to reach my potential, and made me start caring about school for myself, not just my parents.”

Today, Julio has returned to Ramiro Barrera Middle School as a 2013 Teach For America corps member, where he teaches—what else? Eighth grade U.S. History.

“When I was a senior [in college], I started to put all the dots together,” he says, looking back. “Here were all my teachers from Roma who came from different parts of the country, leaving their comfort zones to teach us in a low-income area. If they can do it, why can’t I?

“I came back to the [Rio Grande] Valley to my old school to show them anything is possible. I’m from here, I graduated from college, and I’m back to show them that they can do it, too.”

Teacher calling on students with raised hands in class

While his parents are relishing having their son back at home, they have been able to observe the effect he can have on a national level. Two months ago, they accompanied Julio to Washington, D.C., where he spoke to a capacity crowd at Teach For America’s 25th Anniversary Summit. They stood behind their son, taking in the moment alongside three of Julio’s former teachers who are TFA alumni, including Mr. de Man.

“It was a wonderful experience traveling to Washington and seeing him with his old teachers,” Julian says. “He’s very happy now, and we’re happy for him that he’s working hard doing what he likes to do.”

Maribel, for her part, is ecstatic about her son’s career choice.

“It feels so good to see other teachers and parents telling me how wonderful of a teacher Julio is and how grateful they are that he’s back in the community,” she shares. “To see him lead kids to reach their goals just like the other teachers did for him when he was a boy is a great feeling…As a mother, I’m so proud that he decided to become a teacher.”

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