Scholar Stories: Dra. Rochelle Gutiérrez

How do you use writing or art in your life?

When I write, I am doing my best to honor and build upon the ancestral wisdom of my community. I try to write in ways that do not just inform, but compel people to take action. 

I also sew (turn old objects into new ones) because there is something very powerful in the ability to create.  When I sew, I combine old materials (e.g., my grandmother’s apron, my daughter’s pants pocket, zippers from my son’s shorts) with new materials (e.g., trim I’ve purchased on travels) to remind myself that I am connected to others who have come before me and who will continue our traditions into the future.

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship

My parents have taught me the value of clarity in thought and action. We need to know “why” we are doing what we are doing in order to have an impact. I have an “abuela language” rule in my classes. I require students to speak and write in ways that our grandmothers can understand.  I do this not because I expect students to water down or simplify their arguments, but to pay respect to my abuela (and her abuelas) who hold deep wisdom in this world. We should not waste their time hiding behind educational jargon. Any words we use should be explained or defined in ways that allow our listeners to be included.

What would you tell your younger self?

Be open to anyone who might offer an opportunity or be a good mentor.  They do not need to look like you or come from your neighborhood. 

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

How we move through this world is a form of writing. We are leaving our mark all of the time, even when it is not in the written form. Our words and actions matter not just for us to have integrity, but also to model for the next 7 generations what it looks like to have strong roots and know where we come from. That is the only way we will know where we are going.

Something else you want to share?

A lot of people think that mathematics is a noun—something that humans have discovered or a set of rules for dealing with numbers.  It is really a verb—something we do.  And, because it’s something we do, it is always in motion.  We are “writing” mathematics all of the time.

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