Q&A with Chicana/o studies professor on her path to activism

Julia Vazhenina

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CSUN Chicano Studies Associate Professor, Theresa Montaño, speaks with the Daily Sundial in an interview about her 30 years of teaching experience. “I had a female student who shared her story with me about her mom being deported from the country,” she said. “I can recall times when students had made me cry.” Photo credit: Chanavong Nhao / Contributor

The Daily Sundial had a chance to interview union activist, mother of two sons and CSUN Chicana/o studies associate professor Theresa Montaño. With 30 years of teaching experience, she has dedicated her life to Chicana/o studies and helping students give back to their community.

Daily Sundial: How long have you been teaching? When did you start teaching at CSUN?
Professor Theresa Montaño: I think I’ve been teaching for over 30 years already. I started teaching in a junior high. After that I went to teach Chicana/o studies in a high school and also I worked for the Teacher Education Program. Then I joined CSULA, and nine years ago I started working at CSUN.

DS: So, why have you decided to dedicate your life to teaching?
TM: I was a Chicana/o studies major in college. And like most of my students, I began to uncover the truth and some invisible stories about Chicanos in American history. That’s what inspired me the most. I became a teacher and decided to work with other teachers to prepare a nation of future teachers. I wanted to make sure that Chicano students who were denied an equal education for so many years would be given an opportunity to go to college, and then to go back and serve their community.

DS: Have you ever encountered cheaters during your teaching career?
TM: Cheaters? Unfortunately, yes, I had a couple of times. It was a final paper and I was reading it and thinking, “God, this sounds familiar; I have read this before somewhere.” And I plugged it in and I found out that it was an academic article in a book. I called the student in and hoped that it was some kind of mistake. It appeared that he didn’t know how to do a research paper, and how to do the citations. I had him write it all over again.

DS: Did he finish the class?
TM: Yes, he rewrote the final paper and I let him finish.

DS: Did you have some funny situations during your lectures that you can recall?
TM: We always have a lot of fun, even if it’s serious studying. One day my students did a whole comedy show during the lecture. But I can recall times when students had made me cry. I had a female student that shared her story with me about her mom being deported from the country.

DS: Do you like to cook? And what is your favorite dish?
TM: I cook two times a year: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. I don’t usually cook, but my family loves my green chili. They think it’s fabulous.

DS: What are you looking forward to in new semester?
TM: I am looking forward to teaching in the new semester. I love to work with graduate students, to discuss the issues that we are facing in our community and teach them how to engage and to do a research. I am also looking forward to an electoral victory in November. I am working hard in the campaign. I want to defeat Proposition 32 and to pass Proposition 30. And I look forward to seeing my students who are going to qualify for the Dream Act. I look forward to the contributions they are going to make. That is what keeps me going every semester.