Buena suerte, señor Martinez

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After eight years of teaching at Townsend Harris, Spanish teacher Silvio Martinez is leaving with plans to continue teaching future Spanish teachers right next door at Queens College.

Explaining his decision to pursue other opportunites, Mr. Martinez said, “Working at THHS doesn’t allow me to dedicate my time to anything but work at THHS. The load here made it too difficult for me to teach here and there.”

Before coming to teach at THHS, Mr. Martinez taught at ten schools, starting at Bryant High School and then transferring to Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex, where he taught math.

“They didn’t have a Spanish curriculum; you only get a GED in jail, so they hired me to teach math, but once I got my regular license, I couldn’t teach anything but Spanish.”

Mr. Martinez’s love for the Spanish language is what drove him to become a teacher. “I wanted to be with the Spanish language all my life – to swim in it, look at it, touch it, and the only way to do that is to become a Spanish teacher.”

He described his tenure at Townsend Harris as being full of “fine years” and “different from all the other schools.”

“The students here are quite pleasant. It was the first time I was capable of having a lesson without interruptions. That’s how well behaved all the students are. I have too many good memories, teaching, listening, wondering how much life [the students] have, and how I could make the thought they had more concrete than at the moment.”

In addition to teaching at Queens College, Mr. Martinez is thinking about teaching as a visiting professor at Columbia University and University of Vermont, where they teach his works (two books of short stories and two plays). Eating Your (Spanish) Words: “The English Only Restaurant,” a play Mr. Martinez wrote twenty years ago about several Latino characters who try to hide their cultural origins and fail, is still staged in colleges everywhere.

“[The play] turned out to be really funny and I’ve had people, who identified with the characters, come up to me and say ‘That’s me!’”

Cleaning out a trunk a few days ago, Mr. Martinez found little pieces of paper with ideas on them and is now thinking about going back to writing.