Rosa Aguilar remembers her first day of first grade. It’s a little difficult to forget.

“I didn’t have any idea what was going on,” she said. “I remember a bell rang and everybody got up. I had no idea what they were doing.”

That’s because Aguilar didn’t speak English — and in those days there was no such thing as a special bilingual class or a bilingual teacher.

Monday is Aguilar’s “second” first day of first grade. Much has changed since the first time, but she still is likely to see a lot of 6-year-olds who were once just like her.

Rosa Aguilar, 24, is going back to first grade Monday as a teacher — a bilingual teacher in a bilingual classroom at Modesto’s Fairview Elementary School.

She can’t wait.

“I’m so excited,” Aguilar said. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Now, it’s finally time.”

Friday was a special day. Aguilar spent the afternoon decorating her classroom. She cut, she taped, she pasted, she hung.

She smiled — a lot.

“It really dawned on me today when one of the mothers came in,” Aguilar said. “She brought in her son. He is going to be in my class. It was a great feeling.”

But a feeling that Aguilar wondered would really ever come about.

It’s not easy to be a student, wife and mother. She and her husband, Antonio, have two daughters — 7-year-old Sara, who will start second grade, and 5-year-old Nancy, who will begin kindergarten.

Aguilar graduated from Livingston High School in 1984 and moved on to Merced College for two years.

“The toughest part was when I transferred to Stanislaus State,” she said. “I still had three more years to go. It seemed so far away, so far away.

“I asked myself if I just wanted to stop with an AA (associate of arts degree). But I knew I wanted to teach.”

And she knew she wanted to teach bilingual children. Her emphasis at Stanislaus State was bilingual / cross-cultural studies.

“I want to develop more awareness of the culture,” she said. “We develop language skills but not cultural skills. Children coming in with different cultures need to have their culture acknowledged — or they feel like they are not acknowledged.”

Aguilar, whose parents were from Mexico, was born in California and is the youngest of eight children. The oldest, her brother, Rafael Hurtado, was a big influence. He has been teaching in Modesto City Schools for 17 years.

“He’s given me a lot of advice,” she said. “But not any about the first day.

“I’m not really scared. I’m just a little — I don’t know — overwhelmed maybe. But I’ll get through it.

“I feel good. I feel I can do it. Now that I’m finally here, I’m going to do everything I can to make it a good class.”

And what will she do first?

“Possibly read them a story,” she said. “I have one in mind. It’s about the first day of school. I think that’s appropriate.”

Appropriate for Aguilar and her first-graders.



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