Hesperia General Ed instructor pays it forward
Frank Castanos admits he was not exactly the best student in high school. “Growing up, I never knew exactly what I wanted to be in life,” says Castanos. “I struggled in school, not because of ability, but because I wasn’t motivated.”
At an important time in Frank’s life, Mr. Kurtz came along. “He was patient with everybody, respected everybody but held everyone accountable,” says Frank of his History teacher. “He opened up my eyes right away and basically taught me to take responsibility for my future. He was that one teacher who made an impact on me.”
This one mentor changed the course of Frank’s life. “I don’t think he knows it, even to this day.”
By the time Frank was a senior, he realized that teaching was a career that would allow him to help others to get on track and stay positive. It was a self-taught lesson he wanted to share.
At age 26, Frank has applied what he learned very well.
As a General Education instructor on the Hesperia campus, he has the opportunity to touch and change lives in the same way his high school mentor taught him. “I want to use education as my platform to make something positive for others,” he says.
Frank came to SJVC right out of college where he earned his BA degree in History. “Throughout the path to earn my BA, there were many times that I doubted myself and felt discouraged. But my family constantly reminded me of my potential and kept pushing me in the right direction,” says Frank.
“I want to help people take the step to where they want to go in life,” says Frank. “I want to make sure students are being challenged, but not overwhelmed. I try to be firm, fair and fun.” His formula is working.
“It is obvious to anyone that has seen Mr. Castanos with his students that he truly loves his job and is willing to do whatever it takes to help them be successful,” says student Amaria Melendez. “He goes above and beyond to help his students.”
Frank’s work ethic comes from his family. His parents, Frank and Sandra, provided the strongest example of sacrifice for a better life. His mom came from Argentina, spoke no English and worked hard to assimilate and be successful in this country. His father lead by example and instilled family values.
“People blame their situations as their excuse for not having a certain lifestyle,” says Frank. “But I learned from my parents that if you want something bad enough, you have to work for it.”
Frank and his wife Kelsi are passing this same wisdom on to their young sons, Caleb (2 years old) and Cruz (2 months old). They are Frank’s inspiration to work hard.
“My main drive is my wife and boys, to just lead them in how to do the right things,” says Frank. “Don’t give a half-effort; if you do something, do it the right way.” Frank takes his full effort to class every day.
“No matter what he has on his plate, Frank is never too busy to assist others,” says Richard Matley, Campus Director. “As an instructor, he truly puts himself in the place of his students. Other than that — he’s just a great guy.”
Frank wants his students to realize the importance of the General Education (GE) component of their program. “They think, ‘Oh, I don’t need this class and won’t need this in life,'” he says. He tells his students, “GE applies to all our programs, whether you’re going to be a corrections officer, own your own business or become a medical assistant; these are the skills you will need. Critical thinking, reading and writing effectively, applying research and computer skills will further success in any field.”
Frank tries hard to balance his teaching style in ways that meet the needs of a diverse classroom of students. “Some have big personalities and others are very quiet, but all can bring great ideas and work to class.”
“If I can play a role in pushing them through their doubts, fears and insecurities, and to realize they can get to where they wanted to be when they signed up, I’ve done my job.”
Occasionally, Frank hears back from one of his students. Someone might drop by to tell him about a great job they landed, or how much his mentorship meant to them. More often, he sees them for the last time when they walk across the graduation stage and into their new lives.
Frank has very likely changed the course of many lives. But just like Mr. Kurtz, he might never fully know it.
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