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An educator’s journey

Sierra Vista Junior High School teacher applies past experience to inspire students

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Sierra Vista Junior High School English teacher Robert Isquierdo poses at his desk in his classroom on Friday. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

Sierra Vista Junior High School English teacher Robert Isquierdo, Jr., was not always the best student.

In 1992, he was struggling through his coursework at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.

Though he was going to school, it would be a stretch to call his pursuits wholly academic.

“I was pretty aimless at that point,” he said. “I was only going to college so as not to appear to be a loser.”

But a chance occurrence changed that.

Gary Soto, a renowned author and poet, came to share some of his work at the college.

It was a turning point for Isquierdo.

“Here before me stood a regular guy from Fresno transformed into a wordsmith,” Isquierdo said. “I was inspired, and for the first time in my life I dared to ask the question ‘Why not me?’”


Isquierdo grew up in the modest colony of London, Calif., a small settlement outside Fresno.

Despite his current role as a teacher, Isquierdo admits he was not the most studious student himself growing up.

“I was very social, so my motivation was playing football and soccer and organizing parties,” Isquierdo said. “I had no academic goals.”

That’s another thing he has in common with Soto, who struggled academically himself while in high school.

“I was a few credits away from not walking across the stage (at graduation),” Isquierdo said. “So I hustled through that last semester.”

Once he got to college, he largely went through the motions.

“It was definitely a reputation move, not an academic one in any way,” Isquierdo said.

But the presentation from Soto awoke something dormant within him, a desire not only to better himself, but to inspire people in the same way he had been.

“When I decided to become a teacher, the criteria was, ‘What would be an occupation to inspire the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time?’” Isquierdo said. “And when I did the math, it was either this or become a pop star.”

Naturally, he went the pop star route for a time, plying his talents as part of a boy band.

Alas, the group never reached its full promise, falling apart after a few gigs.


The pop star option explored, Isquierdo turned his attention to teaching. He now teaches at Sierra Vista Junior High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

His time at Sierra Vista recently culminated in the realization of a long-held goal: Meeting the man he considers a mentor face to face.

With the help of the Santa Clarita Public Library, Cultural Landscape Initiative and the Friends of the Santa Clarita Public Library, Isquierdo was able to have Soto come out and speak at Savia a community partnership in Newhall.

“I’m always jazzed when I get to meet young people and to see people who are interested in reading,” said Soto at the event. “It’s also great to meet the teachers and talk about their experiences and their struggles.”

The audience at the event included some of Isquierdo’s students.

“It was very rewarding,” Isquierdo said of the experience. “And it was like things coming full circle because now I’m presenting them with the same exact influence I had in Gary.”

Just like he was inspired all those years ago, Isquierdo said he hopes to inspire his students to always believe they can accomplish great things.

“I’m hoping to inspire them through my accomplishments to believe in themselves,” he said. “I want, through my actions, to make them believe that great things are possible for them as well.”

Those actions include a recent effort to collect books to bring a library to his hometown of London. Isquierdo said anyone who has book donations he can pick up can get in touch with him at .

But that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on his other dream to inspire people. He’s looking at forming a band in the near future.
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