gmhTODAY 30 gmhTODAY April June 2020s | Page 54

educator of the year MORGAN HILL celebrate awards Written By Robin Shepherd Juan Carlos J VILLASENOR uan Carlos Villasenor, 32, is the founder and Principal of Voices College-Bound Language Academy in Morgan Hill. “Mr. V,” as he’s called, is well-liked and respected by his students, their families, and his staff. When the Chamber of Commerce announced him as Educator of the Year, it was a proud moment for them all. “During our annual carnival I was speaking onstage when my parent liai- son interrupted me to invite Chamber members in the audience to make an announcement. It was obvious to every- one that I had no idea they were going to honor me—I was dressed up as a rein- deer at the time!”Juan Carlos said. “I’m honored to be recognized for something that is my life’s passion. As an educator, the impact you have on the life of a child, and therefore the community, can be huge.” 54 Voices Academy is a public charter school currently serving 310 students in grades TK through 5. It was recog- nized in 2018-19 as one of the Top #9 Bay Area Schools for Math (An Innovate Public Schools annual ranking, based on state testing). While a student at UC Berkeley, he volunteered with after-school programs in the Berkeley and Oakland area. The experience made him an advocate for the educational needs of underserved communities. After college Juan Carlos joined Teach For America and landed a teaching internship at Voices-Franklin McKinley in South San Jose while working toward his teaching credential. He founded the school’s Fourth Grade program, which he taught for three years. After that, he developed the Voices Middle School program, including the formation of a GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SPRING 2020 middle school vision, a character devel- opment program, and curricula for Spanish and Social Studies. His successful efforts at Voices- Franklin McKinley led to an offer to become Principal of Voices in Morgan Hill, starting in the 2014-15 school year. “I wasn’t sure I was ready, but school leaders encouraged me and I gladly accepted. During the summer before school started, I attended community events, went door-to-door to say hello in neighborhoods, networked at Chamber activities, talked to folks at the library, and asked people what was on their minds with regard to education. I invited them to come and see what we are doing at Voices. It gave me a chance to share about our challenges, including facili- ties issues, and to encourage community involvement,” he said. “I love Morgan Hill. It’s a tight com- munity where people know each other because they are involved and they help each other too. I see it in our parent/fami- ly community and in the city as a whole.” Voices has acquired a vacant parcel located north of Cosmo Avenue and west of Monterey Road for a new full-service campus with capacity to serve up to 504 students through Eighth Grade. The first class of Eighth Grade graduates is slated for 2022. “We’ve been operating out of facilities previously used for the Flex Academy in a building originally developed for industrial-commercial use. The staff, and our kids and their families are excited. “Five, ten years from now, I want Voices to be known throughout the com- munity as a great place to learn, a safe place for students and families, a place that graduates students who go on to suc- ceed and come back to work and serve in our community. “My team works very hard. This recognition is for them. I’m thankful for it because we tell our students that hard work gets recognized. Now they see it’s true.”