“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.” John F. Kennedy made this statement more than 40 years ago; yet, the issue of diversity still remains a point of contention in schools and in the workplace today. Learning tolerance and respect for people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs is the key to cultivating a productive, harmonious environment. Meeting people from different backgrounds will broaden your worldview and acquaint you with intriguing people along the way.
According to the United States Department of Education, “One of the most effective means of teaching respect for diversity is eliminating ignorance. When we come to an understanding, whether it be cursory or profound, we begin to gain a sense of perspective that allows us to see things clearly and with less bias.”
TSTC publishing is adapting its Taking Charge textbook for use by McLennan Community College students next fall. This unique student success guidebook has personal profiles at the end of each chapter. The profiles highlight distinguished educators and students. One of the chapters in the book focuses on “Diversity, Tolerance and Respect.” The chapter raises student awareness concerning diversity issues by teaching students how to handle situations with sensitivity and dignity. As part of the customization process for MCC, profiles will be written about MCC faculty and students.
Last week, Marketing Manager Sheila and I had the opportunity to interview Gilbert Montemayor, chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences at MCC. Our visit with Montemayor was the first of 12 interviews needed for the new book edition. During the interview, Montemayor spoke about diversity and respect, a topic very important throughout his life.
Known as “Coach” by many of his former students, Montemayor spoke about his days as a professional baseball player and about the 1966 Mustang he owned. Montemayor’s passion for baseball and education led him to a career in coaching and teaching. He said his experiences playing baseball and coaching taught him about the value of conducting oneself with dignity and respect towards others.
As a Mexican-American, Montemayor had to overcome many obstacles. What many people would consider major setbacks in regards to their education and employment, Montemayor simply viewed as challenges to overcome.
Receiving a quality education has always been very important to Montemayor. After earning undergraduate degrees in journalism and history from Baylor University in 1969, Montemayor returned to Baylor and received an M.A. in history in 1974. At the time of his undergraduate work, Montemayor and his sister were two of approximately 12-15 Hispanic students attending Baylor. In his advice to minority students facing diversity-related issues Montemayor said, “Be as professional as you possibly can be and don’t waver on your goals and objectives.”
Montemayor’s success is exemplified not only by the degrees he holds or through his position at MCC, but by the profound impact he’s had on his former students. Before being promoted to department chair four and a half years ago, Montemayor taught history and government full-time at MCC. He originated the first Mexican-American history course at the college.
In addition to speaking about developing a respect for diversity, Montemayor also discussed the importance of organizational skills. “I taught for 11 years… I always had organizational skills to go along with my teaching,” said Montemayor. He said his organizational abilities helped him realize success as a coach: He had to schedule games, tournaments and practices all while managing his teaching duties.
As MCC students open their Taking Charge books in class next fall, they’ll not only be able to learn from Montemayor’s successes and advice about diversity and organization, but from the experiences of other exceptional faculty and students at the college.