Scholar Stories: Dra. Anita Hernández

How do you use writing or art in your life?

I write to communicate with teachers, scholars, and with my family and friends.

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

I was born and raised on the central coast in California in the small rural towns of Guadalupe and Nipomo. My parents were raised in México; my father was from a rancho in the highlands of Jalisco, cerca de Tepatitlánand my mother was raised en La Ciudad de México. When we were young, my parents would go back to visit. I have fond memories of the times we spent with my abuelitosand primos. I feel blessed to have grown up being bilingual and bicultural, but when I was young sometimes I felt like I didn’t speak or write either language well. Thank goodness for college because it was in college where I expanded both my English and Spanish and learned to be an activist through the clubs I joined. 

After being away at college and teaching in Hollister and Sacramento for a number of years, I returned to be closer to family and worked as a professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I then married and that brought me to Las Cruces, Nuevo Mexico, which is now my new home. 

When I was growing up I read a few books, but it was not until I was in college that I learned what other Chicanas were reading. They were reading Quinto Sol, Luis Valdez, Rodolfo Anaya, Corky Gonzalez, Sandra Cisneros, Esmeralda Santiago, Denise Chavez, Judith Ortiz Cofer, José Antonio Burciaga, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, and others. Later, I fell in love with the books by Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. We are living at a time where we have many more up and coming, although not enough, Latinx autoraslike Julissa Arce and Reyna Grande. It was until I read stories about my own bicultural and ethnic experiences that my imagination heightened and my love for reading awakened.

When I was growing up, there was always someone there to help and learn from. My parents were such advocates for education and without them I would not be where I am today. In high school, Lynn Frade encouraged me to be a tutor. While I was at Sacramento State University, my mentors Dr. René Merino, Dr. John McFadden, and Dr. Harold Murai were invaluable and never waivered in their belief that I could do more and encouraged me to attend graduate school. While at Stanford University, I was blessed to have a wonderful mentors, Dra. Guadalupe Valdés and Dr. Kenji Hakuta. While at Cal Poly, it was Dr. Leonard Davidman. I have been blessed that these mentors were there to guide and encourage. I did not get here alone. It is from these experiences that I learned to give back to my communities. Pay it forward is a rewarding experience. I always think about ways to give back and ways to get involved in the communities where I live. One way I give back is by writing grants for borderland comunidades. I also go out to work with teachers and students in schools. I believe in caminando juntos abrimos caminos.

What would you tell your younger self?

 Speak, Read, Draw, and Write! When I was young, I was shy and kept to myself, but as I traveled and I made new friends, colegas, and reconnected with my extended familiain Mexico, I began to develop a new confident me. 

I would tell my younger self desenvuélvetein your own way. It is different for all of us. It all begins by taking small steps.

Participate in the world around you and volunteer in your community. Join after-school and out-of-school activities, like somos escritoras. Hay muchas oportunidades para ¡Leer, Hablar, Dibujar, y Escribir! 

Write about what you speak, draw, and read!

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

My advice to new scholars is to widen your own opportunities by joining national and state networks such as NABE, CABE, the Latinx Caucus at NCTE, ILA, The Writing Project, or the many online communities in your discipline and career. 

My advise for teachers is to earn your National Board certification or pursue a graduate degree and connect with your professors. These opportunities for national certification and advance degrees will give teachers many more opportunities to write, think, and be. While I teach teachers, it is the teachers who teach me to be a better college instructor and be a better person.

I have learned that reading has widen my own writing style and writing has expanded my own thinking about teaching and improved my own writing. ¡Lee, Habla, Dibuja, y Escribe!

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