Marites Perez, 30's
I am a Kindergarten teacher at Dunlap Elementary. Outside of my classroom duties, I facilitate professional learning opportunities among staff members which is a part of my role as a career ladder teacher this year.
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in small town in the northern region of the Philippines. My journey to the United States started in 2010 when I was granted a spousal visa with a permanent resident card (also known as green card). 3 years later, I became a naturalized US citizen which allowed me to bring my parents here using an immediate relative petition.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
Being a Filipino, I grew up believing that I am pliant like a bamboo. A bamboo is flexible and strong. It yields to strong winds and will remain standing despite the atrocities life may bring. With my hopes and dreams for a better future, I quickly embraced the American way of living, such as getting a driver's license and driving a car for the first time or speaking with an American accent. Like many Filipino immigrants, I was determined to assimilate in order to thrive and secure a decent paying job. We share a common goal - to have a brighter future for our families here and abroad.
My education and experience working in a call center in the Philippines helped me navigate the complexities and sophistication of life in the US. It's a privilege. My story is different from my parents and many Asian immigrant families I know. There are more barriers for my parents, such as English language proficiency, education, lived experiences not matching with US job qualifications, and digital literacy. It makes accessing government and health services more difficult and painstakingly longer. Having been in the US for quite some time now, I am recognizing how problematic it is to carry the assimilation and colonial mentality (the belief that one race is superior than others) that was ingrained in us by our White colonizers.
At work, I find myself feeling that I need to work harder to be valued and validated as equal. These thoughts and feelings exhaust me and take a great toll in my daily work as a teacher of color. I am still learning about micro-aggression and the different types of racism that happens around me. I hope to be a better ally by using my own stories and my own voice to advocate for my community.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Getting my Master's Degree at the University of Washington is my proudest moment. It allows me to do what I love - teach. As a foreign degree holder, transferring my credentials to a US school was like squeezing through the eye of a needle. I had to pass several classes and tests in order to apply for a master's degree program. Despite all this, my first application was rejected and I had to try again. When I was finally got an accepted, I had to quit my job, take a loan, and depend on my friends and family for housing and childcare. It was a journey with bittersweet memories.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
I grew up with 2 sisters and a brother. We lived in a farm, so our playground was the rice paddies and trees as our monkey bars. I appreciate the simplicity of my childhood. I learned the value of eating together during meal times.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I am fluent in 2 native dialects from each of my parents. My father belongs to an indigenous group called Isinay and my mother speaks Ilocano. I learned to speak the Filipino language, or Tagalog, and English when I began attending school.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Enjoy life while you are young - don't be afraid to take risks. Your identity will evolve from the things you do and value - free yourselves from stereotypes and stay connected to your roots.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Being surrounded by good friends, old and new, and seeing my family living a more comfortable life than before. It's a joy when I see the fruits of my labor and hardwork - my healthy son, my new home, my new partner.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
I am a member of the Filipino American Educators of Washington. I want to give credit and shoutout for my cousin who took my photo and all the POC photographers.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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