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Chicano studies teacher bonds with students over ethnic studies and culture

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A young Latino, who adapted into cultural study during childhood, soon acquired a profession that now carries the admiration of others around him.

Xocoyotzin Herrera is a Chicano and ethnic studies professor at El Camino College who has been teaching the program for five years.

Herrera has been around the subject for many years, since his father was involved in the same field.

“My dad is a Chicano Studies professor, so I was always exposed to that department to fill in the study, since birth you can say,” Herrera said.

While Herrera was in school as an undergraduate student at UCLA, he studied Latin American studies. While learning about the cultures, teaching Chicano Studies came across his mind.

“I enjoy the culture, it’s history. I look into it. I live it, so why not do something for a living that you enjoy,” Herrera said.

Herrera explained the meaning of the subjects he teaches.

“Ethnic studies is a broad discipline. Within it, you have different branches. There can be African, Asian American studies, and Chicano studies is one of the disciplines found within what we call Ethnic studies,” Herrera said.

Teaching the profession has helped Herrera become observant with his students.

“You have to become very aware of who you’re teaching, where you’re teaching, and who’s catching on. That’s hard to acquire,” Herrera said. “Over the years I was really able to be more effective.”

Salvador Mejia, 21, undecided major, is taking his ethnic studies class to know more about it and enjoys his class.

“He cracks up jokes,” Mejia said. “When he’s (lecturing), he gives an example with jokes and it makes the subject understandable.”

Herrera is also involved with clubs on campus, like Mecha and the Chicano Club. Some of his Mecha students have decided to change their majors due to their involvement in the club.

“I find out that a lot of them switched from mathematics, arts and sociology to Chicano studies because they took my courses here so I guess that created an impact,” Herrera said.

Mari Elena Cortez, 23, music major, is also taking his Chicano studies class and likes his style of teaching.

“He makes us feel proud of where we come from and who we are in the sense of our culture,” Cortez said.

Herrera wants to provide awareness to students about their culture.

“The population culture here is different compared to different parts of (Los Angeles),” Herrera said. “There’s first generation Chicano, who have not been exposed to anything related to the idea of being Chicano.”

Not only is Herrera a professor, but he’s also a musician. He was involved in the nomination of a Grammy award.

“My sister is a singer and she does Mexican music. She has an album that my dad and I co-produced in and her album won a nominee for Best Regional Music,” Herrera said.

On top of this, Herrera has also earned the admiration of his colleagues.

Dr. Gloria Miranda, dean professor of history for over 24 years, is happy to have Herrera and appreciates what he brings to the department.

“He brings his expertise in Chicano studies when he teaches within ethnic studies, but his ability to connect with students is one of the big assets we have of him. He’s very good in the classrooms, he uses very different strategies to convey the students on what he’s teaching, ” Miranda said.

Herrera’s colleague Jason Suarez, professor of history for 16 years, admires his professionalism.

“Xocoyotzin has helped set the tone for the direction we want to head. As for the department, one of the things that we are really looking to do is to become more engaged in alternative ways of helping students learn,” Suarez said. “Xocoyotzin is a model of that. His approach to teaching, willing to share life experiences, his mentorship, and his empathy—that is a very crucial part of the department we want to evolve into.”

Herrera wants EC to promote more involvement during Hispanic Heritage Month.

“Bring in speakers to get students more united because here on campus,” Herrera said. “We have two Chicano clubs and I would like to see them work together and have events that promote the idea of knowledge, idea of awareness, but unity among themselves.”

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The student news site of El Camino College
Chicano studies teacher bonds with students over ethnic studies and culture