Second time’s the charm for new Spanish teacher who applied for a position in the district in 2020

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Summer Sueki

New World Language teacher Cindy Ruiz passes out papers to her fourth period Spanish 1 class on Tuesday, Aug. 16. Ruiz also coaches the girls frosh-soph soccer team.

The second – instead of the third – time became the charm for new Spanish teacher Cindy Ruiz.

Before joining the faculty this school year, Ruiz said she applied to teach Spanish for the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] in 2020 and got an interview but didn’t get an offer for a position.

Then, she said she got an offer to teach at Sierra Vista Middle School in the Covina-Valley Unified School District as a Spanish 1 teacher for the 2021-2022 school year.

But she felt like an outsider there.

“I really didn’t feel like I had people who [could] relate to me,” said Ruiz, who was the only World Language and first-year instructor at the Covina school in Los Angeles County. “I was really new to everything and because everybody already knew everything; they kind of forgot about telling me some things I didn’t know and just assumed that I knew.”

After this experience, Ruiz said she realized that she needed more support to teach well and decided she wanted to work at a high school that has an entire World Language department to aid her.

Even though she didn’t get the job two years before, she said she decided to apply to teach in the FJUHSD again over the summer. Sunny Hills needed a replacement for John Marvin, who had retired at the end of the 2021-2022 school year as a Spanish teacher after a 38-year tenure.

“I was hoping I would get an interview, and I would get the job, but I was mainly giving myself another chance because I knew I wanted to teach at a high school,” Ruiz said. “I made myself a promise that I would apply to teach at a high school, so when I saw this position open, I had really high hopes.”

And to her surprise, she said she got the job that provided the support she needed to teach at her full potential.

“Here, there’s plenty of people that are willing to help me and who have already helped me,” said Ruiz, who teaches four Spanish 1 classes and one period of Spanish International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement – the same teaching load that Marvin had before his retirement.

Principal Craig Weinreich said he was willing to offer her a position here, believing that Ruiz would be a good asset to the school.

“Ruiz is very personable, very friendly, very outgoing and has a great Spanish background,” Weinreich said. “I think her involvement and [effort] to help get other kids involved both in her class and around campus is going to be super helpful.”

LA VIDA A SANTE FE

Ruiz’s passion for teaching Spanish goes back to her life growing up at Santa Fe High School in her teen years in the Whittier Union High School District from 2012-2016.

Despite her Hispanic heritage and fluency in the language, the instructor said she was never very involved with the culture since she only knew about Guatemalan traditions because that’s where her family is from and Mexican culture because most of her friends were Mexican. However, after she took Spanish courses in high school, she became intrigued with her background.

“I realized that I learned so many new things about [Hispanic] culture that I didn’t know about like some people give a kiss on a cheek to say hi, and if you don’t give a kiss on the cheek that’s disrespectful,” Ruiz said. “Then I thought about the fact that there might be so many other people out there like me that don’t know about their culture.”

This thought fueled her to become a Spanish teacher.

Ruiz said she graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in 2019 with a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish. The following year in May, she obtained a teaching credential in Spanish, and in December 2020, she earned a master’s degree in education from the same campus she graduated from.

LA VIDA EN PAUSA

The COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020 interrupted Ruiz’s educational journey, which started in October 2019 when she began her teaching career as a substitute teacher at Anaheim High School.

Although she completed her teaching credential program in May 2020 as a student teacher at the same campus, Ruiz – like most teachers statewide – had to adjust to a new way of educating her students through online instruction via a computer screen.

The next school year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all public instruction to begin remotely, so she returned to Anaheim as a long-term substitute teacher in August 2020.

Two months later, Ruiz said she relocated to El Modena High School in Orange in October 2020 before settling at Sierra Vista Middle School in March 2021.

”[Teaching remotely] was very different because a lot of the students had their cameras off and there wasn’t a way for me to tell if they were there or not unless I asked them to say something,” she said. “It was really strange to have to teach while seeing myself on the screen and nobody else.”

At her latest stop here, Ruiz said she aims to show excitement in spreading Hispanic culture by incorporating various Spanish-speaking countries into her lessons, making sure to talk about ones in Central America and South America, not just Mexico.

“A lot of us here tend to think that if you speak Spanish, you’re from Mexico,” she said. “One of my goals [for my Spanish 1 class] is to teach that there are 21 different other countries that Spanish is spoken in.”

Even though she hasn’t taught at Sunny Hills for long, some students in her classes say they already like Ruiz because of her enthusiasm for teaching and willingness to converse with them.

“She seemed to be very passionate about Spanish,” said freshman Maya Nixon, who’s in Ruiz’s third period Spanish 1 class. “As she was telling us about her life, she seemed to enjoy some things that I enjoy, like soccer and sporting events.”

LA VIDA EN LOS DEPORTES

Besides her duties as a teacher, Ruiz has also signed up to join the school’s athletic program.

She took over from now football coach Sergio Silva as the Lady Lancers’ soccer frosh-soph coach.

Her four-year varsity soccer tenure at Santa Fe High School and later as a junior varsity soccer coach for four years at her alma mater from 2017-2021 gave her the needed experience to guide the Lady Lancer underclassmen.

“I focus a lot on work ethic, and one of my favorite quotes that I always bring up is ‘we finish what we started,’” the coach said. “If we’re going to lose, we’re not going to give them an easy win.” 

Outside of the classroom, Ruiz said she enjoys playing other sports like football, basketball and baseball.

“I like to go to sporting events, Dodgers games, Lakers games – that’s mainly where most of my [free] time is,” she said. “Aside from that, I like to spend time with my friends, whatever that may be even if it’s just a lunch or dinner.”

FINAL: LA LINGUA DE ESPAÑOLA

And what about Spanish – how much does she speak the language outside the classroom?

“My family is mainly Spanish speaking, so whenever I speak with my grandma or my dad, it’s all in Spanish,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes I run into people at the store and one person only speaks English, but the customer only speaks Spanish, so I step in and help them out.”