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Montserrat Garibay

Austin, Texas

Twenty years ago, Montserrat Garibay arrived in Texas with her mother and sister, leaving behind all she knew and loved in Mexico. “It was a very hard experience,” she recalls. That same year, the saddened eighth grader crossed paths with a teacher who inspired Garibay to become an educator.

Today, as a pre kindergarten teacher in the Austin Independent School District and vice-president of Education Austin, Garibay teaches students who have also been brought to the U.S. without the right papers. “Having a 4-year-old tell you his parents are going to be deported, is heart breaking,” Garibay says. “When I became a vice president in my union, I said I wanted to do something about it.” After learning about NEA’s work to support common-sense immigration reform, Garibay applied for an NEA grant, which Education Austin used to offer educational forums for Austin’s immigrant parents. Support specialists, counselors, immigration attorneys, and—perhaps most importantly—university students who had navigated the system contacted hundreds of parents, bringing hope to Garibay’s undocumented students, and the realization that they could also realize the American Dream. Simultaneously, membership in Education Austin began to grow. “[People said] ‘I want to join [the union] because you’re doing such great work,’” recalls Garibay. “When we focus on social justice issues, it’s very important because these are issues that affect our communities.” In April, Garibay joined NEA leaders in Washington, D.C. at the Rally for Citizenship, where they marched in support of immigration legislation that offers a path to citizenship for millions who are already living in the U.S. “We need to be the voice that [our students] don’t have,” Garibay says.

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Published In

August, 2013