Garcia becomes teacher after lawyer career


Mia Constantin

Spanish teacher Henry Garcia prepares his lesson for class. Before going into his teaching career, Garcia practiced law for 15 years in Colombia, later immigrating to the United States, where he now teachers AP Spanish at the school.

Normally, a teacher’s first job out of college is teaching. Henry Garcia, the AP Spanish Language and Culture teacher, went into the workforce as a lawyer. Garcia practiced law for 15 years in Colombia until he immigrated to the United States, ultimately becoming a teacher.

“I took all of the classes in my country, and I took them from a Catholic college in Colombia. I took immigration law, and for different reasons I had to come here. I was working on my law career for around 15 years and I was a corporate lawyer,” Garcia said. “Then when I came here, my level of english was very [low]. It was difficult to be a lawyer [here] because they need to have a lot of knowledge of language and, in this case, writing and oral. Then I started studying English in many places, and of course I think I improved my English, but I started a career as a teacher and I liked it.”

He started teaching because of Philip Yutzy, another Spanish teacher in the language department, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I knew Mr.Yutzy before I started [teaching] at school, and he encouraged me to start teaching. I started [teaching] at Harrisonburg High School 11 or 12 years ago as an assistant,” Garcia said. “After that I got a job as a Spanish teacher and I started to teach Spanish 1, Spanish 2, [and] Heritage 1 until I was able to teach AP Spanish Language and Culture. I’ve always worked here as a teacher at Harrisonburg High School. I also worked at EMU, and right now I work at JMU as a professor.”

Garcia spent most of his earlier career schooling learning how to be a lawyer, this might seem like a waste to become a teacher, but he feels as if he had gained more experience by being an educator.

“Sometimes I think about [being a lawyer] because I spent six years taking the classes in my country, another couple years getting my master’s and 15 years working. I think, ‘Ah I lost all that,’ but what I lost, I gained more as an educator,” Garcia said.

Before becoming a teacher, Garcia did have to acquire his teaching license, something that he found harder than most with previous schooling in the United States.

“I studied a very, very long time [for my teacher’s license] because, as I said before, my English is very bad, and all of the classes were in English. I had to write, understand and have discussions in English,” Garcia said. “I took classes at JMU and some online, along with my four or five required exams, to get my license. I think that it is easier for people who studied here to get their license as a teacher than people who come from another country.”

Although Garcia came to the united states to escape the political, economical and securital problems in Colombia, he did not see himself becoming a teacher.

“No, no, no. I never thought I would be a teacher. Sometimes you think your life is moving in a certain point, but life moves in another direction. The move was very good for me and my family,” Garcia said.

As for Garcia’s life in the United States, he enjoys teaching and students that come back to talk to him after high school.

“My favorite part [of teaching], I think, is when I meet a student later, after they finish high school and they come to my class. They say to me, ‘Thank you Mr.Garcia’ and I feel good,” Garcia said.

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