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Profile on Mr. Jesus Ariza
The sound coming from Mr. Jesus Ariza’s classroom as you walk by is very inviting. There’s a very strangely accented man’s voice followed by teenagers’ laughter. Sometimes you can hear a video playing of a famous motivational speaker, or people being thrown off of trampolines. The environment in Mr. Ariza’s Spanish II class is very different than most.
In a typical day in Spanish II, some students are jokingly insulted, and asked, “Who would like to volunteer for a beautiful detention?” in a thick Spanish accent. Mr. Ariza is constantly making his students laugh without cracking a single joke book spine, and rarely do students get into trouble, except for the occasional excessive talker.
He has a different and entertaining way of saying everything. Instead of telling a student to sit down and stop talking, he is more likely to say, “In your house, boy! In your house and close the door!” He refers to every student’s desk as his or her house. If you are in the wrong desk, you will have to pay rent for that house or, in other words, receive a “beautiful detention”.
In the first few weeks of school it is not uncommon to hear something come up on the pronunciation of Mr. Ariza’s first name, Jesus. His name is pronounced “hey-zeus” but lots of his students tend to pronounce it like the Christian son of God, Jesus, with the same spelling. His response is always “Jesus is from heaven, I am from Columbia”.
Mr. Ariza’s always upbeat attitude makes you wonder how a person stays so cheerful. Ariza’s attitude seems have something to do with the fact that he is a very devout Christian and prays to God for everything. He says that absolutely nothing stresses him out. “Because I pray, and pray is just the…the solution to all the problems that you can have in this world”. He even says that his favorite book to read is The Bible. He believes with all his heart that all your problems can be solved with God.
The city he grew up in also appears to be very influential in his jolly attitude. He was born in Barranquilla, Columbia in South America, and this is what he says about the city he was born and raised in: “It was a big city. [Thankfully] I was born in Barranquilla, it’s a wonderful city, and we had one of the most wonderful carnivals. That means that the environment of the city is always like a party. We have an eternal party. That’s why I am the way I am, happy, dancing, because that’s my city.”
Ariza has grown to be quite the family man. He married Imera, whose name means “the light of the day”. Together they have two children, a boy and a girl. Their names are Tommy and Sofia. He raises them with the quite a different philosophy than what he grew up with. His family name was known for having many different homes and many children all over the place. His father had many affairs and Mr. Ariza was a product of one of those affairs. After his mother died when he was two and a half years old, he lived with his stepmother, and “it was a nightmare”. When he got married and had his own children, he said to himself, “This is not going to happen to my family, this is not going to happen to my children, I have to stop this”. He used his past experiences to change the way he acts now and “made lemonade when life gave him lemons”.
Mr. Ariza was first brought to America by an opportunity through a company. “There is a company called VIF, Visiting International Faculty teachers. They hire teachers in other countries to teach Spanish here. They had a web page for any teacher in the world interested in working here, that was the first step that I had to do.” A school in North Carolina first hired him. He came to Kentucky to be a teacher after his position in Lexington, KY was closed. He interviewed for our school first and once he was told he had the job, he saw no need to go somewhere else.
Mr. Ariza is a very devoted teacher. His classes are very well planned out, fun and inviting for his students. It makes you wonder why he is so dedicated and what made him want to become a teacher in the first place. He said this “When I was a student, one of my teachers impacted my life. So I am very grateful for him and that’s why I am doing what I’m doing because that’s to pay back what I received”. He actually refers to teaching as one of his main hobbies other than reading. “I love to teach. Every day I’m thinking in my class, preparing this, changing this, looking for those funny videos, looking for the reflection Friday.”
He knows that teaching is what he was supposed to do with his life and that there is nothing else that he would have been. “[If I could have been anything else, I would be] A teacher, I love to teaching. It’s my class…I have a nice relationship with my students and I enjoy what I do. If I’m going to be something different I could be successfully wrong. I could do something that I was not born to do.”
Before he became a teacher, he worked as a teacher in a prison. He learned many things from working there. One of the biggest things he learned was to have gratitude. “The first thing I have is gratitude in my heart so that’s why every day is a special day.” He wants his students to not be pressured by others into doing bad tings. He says his most important piece of advice he could give his students is “Be yourself”.
He is also very dedicated to his students, going the extra mile, doings things that he doesn’t have to do. He started a Salsa Club to “have a nice group to enjoy the value of my country. I’m like an ambassador, so you know about Columbia through me. Probably if you know me you can say ‘well its nice to know about Columbia because I had a teacher and he was nice and funny and I would like to know more about Barranquilla’”. He uses dancing to spread his happy attitude and love of dancing. He says, “You cannot separate the dancer and the dancing”.
Mr. Ariza also plans something that every student looks forward to on Friday’s in his classes, Reflection Friday. On Friday’s, he shaow the entire class two videos. One video is serious and inspirational. He has shown a range of videos from motivational speakers to videos about being a winner. Afterwards, he shows a funny video. It could be of kids falling, people flipping off of trampolines, or cats flying off of fans. He uses these days to help his students gain better morals and have enhanced character.
Jesus’ all-around-good-person vibe shows when it comes to others’ opinions of him. His students use words like “crazy”, “hilarious”, “cool”, and “outstanding” to describe him. One junior student, Tyler Willett, comments on the fact that Mr. Ariza “never has a bad day”. Another sophmore student, Abby Smith, says “He’s always perky, like he had a Monster, [the energy drink]”. Even his main colleague, Spanish I teacher Mr. Joel Claycomb, knows of his good persona. He says that he is a “genuinely nice guy” and “loyal”. Mr. Claycomb also says that unlike other teachers he doesn’t act different in school and out of school and is “always a very fun guy…that’s what makes him different than a lot of people”.
Mr. Ariza’s good attitude makes him a very liked person and everyone enjoys being around him. His humor and constant happiness make him the ideal teacher for high school students. He leaves you with this very respectable piece of guidance. “Everything that I do I put my heart 100% in everything because I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. So today is the day. Just do it.”