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This New Dallas Teacher Is Nervous On His First Day Of School, Just Like The Students

Today’s the first day of public school in Texas, and for at least one teacher, it’ll be a day of many firsts. Michael Latorre, a veteran teacher who was born in Puerto Rico, got his alternative certification to teach Spanish. And today, he makes his Dallas teaching debut at Pinkston High School.

Last year, Michael Latorre was teaching private school in Puerto Rico when a colleague told him DISD was recruiting. He was interested. He’s been interested in the district for years. He even applied for a job here 10 years ago, but at the time, lacked some qualifications. Now, he has more experience.  

“So she got me the contact,” Latorre says. “I emailed the coordinators. And we met at a hotel in San Juan, went through the four stages of the interview, took the necessary examinations and finally they made an offer. And I accepted.”

Latorre has now taught 14 years, in schools from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to New York City. Despite the experience, he still gets first-day jitters.

“I’m not nervous in a bad way,” Lattore says. “I’m anxious to get to know really my students. It’s the first time I’ll be teaching in Dallas. So the context is different. New York has its own challenges. U.S. Virgin Islands has its own challenges. So I really want to get to know the students and I’m teaching a subject that really is being taught as a foreign language.  But it’s so native for this population that I really want to know where is that happy medium of being a foreign language or native language?”  

And even for those who speak Spanish at home, Lattore fears many students can’t necessarily read or write it. He’s here to make sure all his kids get it, because it matters.

“As diverse as we are, people from Asia,  from Africa, from Latin America, native Texans, many languages ... there’s no effective dialogue between people," Latorre says. "And it’s something I really want to contribute on.  That the students can become bilingual I think will raise the bar of really showing empathy of other cultures and how to actually live together in a safe way.”  

Safe to say Latorre feels ready for the challenge, even though he’s heard Pinkston has a reputation. The state says it needs improvement. In the past, it was academically unacceptable.

“That bad image Pinkston has is almost like a ghost, like a phantom of the past, of the last 10 years," Latorre says. "I've seen the kids and the kids are not bad.”

Latorre says his mission is to help his kids change the school’s image. He planned to start at 6 this morning, three hours before the students arrived.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.