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Peter Esperanza: Making an impact one student at a time

Barstow High School teacher Peter Esperanza was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. From pre-school through college, he attended Catholic schools. He currently is a candidate for a doctorate in education and education management.
He comes from a small family — by Manila standards. He has two younger siblings. As the eldest, Esperanza is the role model to his sisters.
“My parents raised us to never stop achieving, and I owe them my drive and passion for achievement and realizing every goal I set,” he said. “I am grateful that my parents invested so much in me; I would have never experienced the world if not for them.”
In college, Esperanza could not wait to be a productive part of the workforce. As soon as he graduated, he was excited to work as a college instructor. For two years, six days a week, he taught mathematics and computers to college students at the Informatics Computer Institute in Manila. But he was not satisfied and knew he could do more. So he traveled to China and challenged himself to teach in an environment that would test his teaching skills.
“It was the most challenging and rewarding experience in my career,” he said. “My knowledge of Chinese was zero. My ability to communicate verbally was null for my first few weeks. Ordering food was a guessing game; I pointed to items on menus that I could not read and prayed that it was not going to be just rice, again. But over time I learned Chinese and succeeded as a teacher.”
Esperanza has struggled to find his niche, but his drive to succeed has always pushed him to ignore obstacles and focus on the reason he left Manila -- that is to prove to himself that he made the right choice of pursuing a career in teaching, share his experiences, and help students to love math.

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Free time? With papers to grade, lessons to plan, and my own studies, free time can be rare. But when I have it, I visit and share time and good food with friends, and I browse the Internet for new math books.

Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: Jesus, of course who happens to be a teacher too. His teachings have helped me to be focused and helpful. Rafe Esquith and Jaime Escalante who inspired me to teach in a way that excites students and reaches even those who others have ignored. And of course, my parents, who taught me to do my best, work hard, and be filled with love and caring.

Q: Where do you find deep satisfaction?
A: As a teacher in Barstow High School, I always find it satisfying whenever my students appreciate my efforts to provide them with a quality math education. It’s even more satisfying whenever you hear remarks from students about how fast a lesson went, and how they don’t notice that an hour just went by in my class. It gives me validation that I am doing my job — my avocation — right.

Q: What are the top three issues facing Barstow and what is your take on them?
A: drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and unemployment.
My first Economics professor, a post Keynesian, taught me that inflation was much more desirable than unemployment can devastate families and communities. He was right. I look at the domino effect of our young people who make flawed judgments about drugs, pregnancy and education and the cycle of pain, poverty, and poor career opportunities that can result.

Q: Tell us about a happy memory in your first car.
A: Prior to coming to the United States, I never drove a car. In China and the Philippines, I always relied on public transportation. But here in Barstow, I was compelled to learn to drive and sit behind a wheel, when I realized that I had been asking friends for too many favors to drive me around Barstow. As soon as I passed my driving test, I purchased a red Toyota Yaris just to drive from my home to school. There is nothing special or overly happy to tell you about my first car except that it’s the first auto I ever drove, at the age 27.

Q: What personal trait do you treasure most and why?
A: My optimism. I have always been motivated to challenge myself and prove to skeptics and pessimists that “it can be done.” This personal trait is the reason I am enjoying my job and always look at things with a positive perspective.

Q: What music gets you moving?
A: When it comes to music, my taste is very eclectic. As long as my ears find the melody and harmony acceptable, I listen to it. My music choices range from classical Bach to alternative rock and from Doo-wop to K-Pop (Korean pop).

Q: Tell us about your pets.
A: I never actually had a pet of my own. Back in the Philippines, my family has a small farm. So, if livestock can be considered pets, I guess I had pigs and poultry.

Q: Who was your hero as a kid? Do you have a hero today? (or someone you especially admire?)
A: As a kid, Superman used to be my hero. I am fascinated by the fact that he can fly and is pretty efficient in finishing his tasks in lightning speed. Today, I consider every teacher I meet as a modern hero. Civilization will not prosper if not for these men and women who have kept inspiring young minds to innovate for a better future.

Q: What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
A: I have eaten a lot of exotic foods during my travels through Asia, especially since I ordered food from menus in languages that I could not read. I also zip-lined across rivers and treacherous ravines in the southern island of the Philippines, and I once ran in Manhattan’s Central Park in the middle of a blizzard. But the most adventurous I have done from my travel was riding the Bactrian camel on the Great Wall of China.

Q: Tell us about your three favorite movies. One that makes you laugh? One that makes you weep? One that inspires you?
A: “Shaolin Soccer” makes me laugh. “The Flowers of War” makes me weep and “Dead Poets Society” inspires me.

Q: What makes you tick?
A: Challenge, satisfaction and a desire for excellence.
Q: What are your hopes, dreams, ambitions?
A: To dream is free and that’s one of the cheapest things I enjoy in life. I have never stopped setting goals and achieving them. My dream is to have my own online school. I have developed a website that I utilize to reach out to more students who need a variety of mediums of instruction to learn math. If Mark Zuckerberg made Facebook as a platform to connect people, I will make www.NumberBender.com a vehicle to keep youths mathematically educated, entertained and challenged.

Q: If you could change one thing about Barstow today, what would it be?
A: I have lived in Barstow for almost a decade now and if there’s one thing I want to change about this town, it would be the attitude of our youths in taking pride and compassion about being the sons and daughters of Barstow.

Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: If there’s one thing I still want to accomplish in my life it would be getting a PhD in mathematics/statistics before I reach the age of 40.

Q: What are five things you are grateful for?
A: Family: for giving me the reason to dream big; BHS: for allowing me to do what I love — mold young minds; DLSU: for instilling in me the value of diligence; Facebook: for making the Philippines just a stone throw away every time I go online; iPhone: for making me feel the world is on the palm of my hand.

Q: What’s your best advice for a strong marriage?
A: Love, patience, communication, caring, and more patience.

Q: What are your three favorite places to eat in Barstow?
A: Just Grill it, Canton Restaurant… And my own kitchen, since no other place know how to make chicken adobo the way my mother does.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: As a teacher, inspiration is the fuel that gives me the reason not to be complacent with what I know. I am inspired when I encounter students who exceed what is expected of them, and who push themselves to achieve their dreams.

Q: How can readers get a hold of you?
A: Readers can go to www.NumberBender.com and contact me or send me an email through barstow.statistics.teacher@gmail.com.


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