My name is Elena Aguilar, and Huber Trenado was my student for three years—for his 6th to 8th grade years. Had it been possible, I would have elected that young person to a political office, even then, because Huber displayed the leadership qualities that we need in office. He was hardworking and dedicated to learning—he asked for extra books to read and extra homework, he designed his own geography study, and he revised his essays over and over. He was thoughtful and reflective, kind and empathetic, a deep listener, and a relationship builder among his peers. He was respected and admired by his classmates—students who struggled confessed, in private, that they wanted to “be like Huber.” He also had a sense of humor, and a sense of self and confidence that was rare among sixth graders.
This is what we need in our leaders in Oakland—those who were born and raised in this city, who know in their hearts and minds what it means to attend our public schools, whose commitment emerges from their bones. We need leaders who struggled in our schools, as Huber did, and who also saw that school can be different—as Huber did: that schools can serve all children. Huber has that lived experience. Huber has learned, as an adult, about schooling and teaching and leadership, but that learning would be shallow were it not built on a foundation of true understanding and experience.
Even as a middle school student, Huber was concerned about his Oakland community. He applied his emerging understandings of history to think about our city, and his analysis fueled his commitment to transform our city. He registered the injustices experienced by Oakland students in under-resourced schools, and experienced by immigrants in the Fruitvale, and saw that he could have an impact on those injustices. Huber was aware of his power and the potential impact he could have even when he was 13 years old.
There is one more aspect of Huber’s way of being that fuels my confidence in his leadership, and that is his commitment to seeing multiple perspectives and his willingness to listen to others. Since Huber graduated from ASCEND, where I was his teacher, there have been more times than I can count when he reached out to me (and to many others) and asked for advice. He called when he was considering various career paths, he called when he was going through personal challenges, he called when he wanted advice on teaching. Each time he reached out with thoughtful questions and a willingness to listen to what I had to say—but he did not necessarily follow the advice; he was open and humble and receptive, but he also made up his own mind about things.
This stance is what gives me tremendous confidence in Huber as a leader, because this is who he is—this is who he’s been since he was 12. As a school board leader, I imagine Huber will take decisions he has to make with tremendous commitment and seriousness. I imagine he will seek out the opinions and insights of many others—from his immediate community to the larger ones with which he is connected. And I believe he will take those contributions, consider his own experience and beliefs, and make decisions which will be in the best interest of Oakland’s children.
It is without reservation that I endorse Huber Trenado for District 5’s school board seat.
Elena Aguilar spent 12 years as a classroom teacher and also has experience as an instructional coach. She is the author of two books and now works with educators on transformational coaching and team development and with schools districts to build equitable schools. Elena lives in Oakland with her husband and son.