Francisco Gallegos graduates this December with his master’s degree in culturally and linguistically diverse education. While a graduate student in the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), Gallegos challenged the status quo and promoted bilingual education—while earning a 4.0 GPA. Two of his professors—Liz Mahon, PhD, and Sheila Shannon, PhD—summarized Gallegos’ academic achievements. “He has made strong contributions to curriculum innovation, policy recommendations aimed at social justice, and community activism to support the rights of bilingual and immigrant families,” they wrote.
CU Denver’s Top-Ranking Education Program
A native of New Mexico, Gallegos chose the SEHD graduate program because of its reputation. “I had always admired the academic work that came out of the University of Colorado Denver, especially the bilingual research,” he said. “The program did a lot of trailblazing. When I was an undergraduate student, we would look to those theorists and academics.”
A licensed teacher in New Mexico, Gallegos visited Colorado while he worked for a company that developed elementary curriculum. “I thought it was really beautiful,” he said. So he decided to get his teaching license in Colorado as well and eventually applied to CU Denver’s education program. “I didn’t even know I was going to get to work with prominent researchers in the field that I was studying before I went to graduate school,” he said.
Language, Power, and Moby Dick
As someone who speaks both English and Spanish, Gallegos used his personal experience to guide his own research. In CLDE 5050: Assessment and Advocacy, he decided to critique a reading assessment test commonly used in bilingual schools. “I’m going to take down Moby Dick, which is this test,” he said. “Teachers and administrators make decisions based on these test scores, and I’d already learned about many tests that their validity and authenticity can very easily be called into question.”
Gallegos knows that teaching can truly transform people’s lives. “My favorite classes at CU Denver were the ones that made me change the most about how I think of the world,” he said. For example, he took a linguistics class that helped him understand how language and power intersect. “We can judge people by the way they speak and the types of vocabulary that they have,” he said. “I learned a lot in that class about how language evolves and how to be more open-minded.”
Parents Valued Education
Gallegos knew the value of education from an early age. “My parents were the first children in their family who went to college, so my education was really important from the time I was a child,” he said. But it wasn’t until later that he decided to become a teacher. “When I was in middle school, we had to think more and more about what you want to be when you grow up.” Gallegos thought he would teach music, until he discovered he wasn’t very good at it. One of his teachers encouraged him to explore bilingual education—and then everything fell into place. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher, so it was an easy transition,” he said.
Gallegos is currently working for an education cooperative called I Am Me Mentors, where he teaches online, specializing in English and Spanish instruction as a second language. He is grateful for his professors and hopes be a positive influence as a teacher. “I am just happy if I can give back to my students,” he said.
When asked if there was anything else he wanted to say, Gallegos didn’t hesitate. “I just want to thank my parents,” he said.