Letters to the Editor: Nonwhite kids often don’t feel like they belong. Bilingual education can help

First-grade students at Esperanza Elementary School in Los Angeles high-five each other during class in 2019.
(Liz Moughon / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Jean Guerrero’s op-ed column on the treatment she received as a child speaker of both Spanish and English, and of her courage to drop the Anglicized pronunciation of her last name as an adult, struck my heart.

As a bilingual teacher of 52 years, I have watched children who start in kindergarten as Jose and Maria somehow morph into Joe and Mary by the third grade. Did teachers rename them? Did their friends (not likely)? Or did they do it themselves, driven by the need to fit in?

I attended a high school graduation where 90% of the students were Hispanic and the names were read as Joe, Mary, Rose, Albert and Ellen, and not Jose, Maria, Rosa, Alberto or Elena. I wondered what their parents were feeling.


And Spanish is not the only affected language. Our Asian students named Ting and Xiu and Hong become Peter and Sandy and Harry.

Damage is done to children who experience this. The remedy is to expand our elementary and secondary programs that promote multilingualism to recognize and honor home language and heritage. In Los Angeles we have programs in which teaching is conducted in two languages. We proudly offer English with Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Armenian, Arabic, French and Japanese.

Lastly, let’s recognize the teachers who make this happen for our children.

Cheryl Ortega, Los Angeles

The writer is director of bilingual education for United Teachers Los Angeles.


To the editor: I’d like to say to Guerrero, you should never be ashamed of your last name. Now we have our new state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Guerrero, and that puts this last name at the top of the respect level in California.

Your self-esteem should rise to the highest level, as we are all proud of you. Congratulations on your column.

Now, the name Guerrero is something Donald Trump will choke on.

Rogelio Quesada, San Diego


To the editor: When my father immigrated to the U.S. from Croatia after World War II, he added the letter “h” at the end of “Stipanovic” so he wouldn’t have to constantly explain the proper pronunciation. He became a citizen and loved the U.S. as his adopted home country.

As a native Angeleno, I can easily say the three syllables in “Guerrero,” but don’t expect me to roll the “rr.” I don’t speak Spanish.

Mark Stipanovich, Simi Valley