When Juan Martin Sajche came to San Diego from Guatemala, he started 10th grade at Grossmont High School speaking no English at all. The first words he learned were “yes,” “no” and “thank you,” which was better than nothing, but not nearly enough.
Sixteen years and assorted diplomas later, Sajche is a teacher at Morse High School in Southeast San Diego. His language abilities have expanded considerably, along with his horizons. But “thank you” is still a big part of his vocabulary, whether he’s saying the words or just living them.
As a student at Grossmont College, Sajche was so good at helping his fellow ESL students, his teacher suggested he become a teacher himself. As a student at San Diego State, he volunteered at the San Ysidro Health Center and the Center for Social Advocacy.
Now, he spends his summers as a volunteer teacher at the Colegio San Andrés, a high school in San Andrés Xecul, Guatemala, that Sajche and a friend opened three years ago. It is all part of giving thanks to the country that gave him his start and the one that let him start again.