A gift of mole sauce
Nothing hits the spot after a long day at work than a delicious dinner of pollo con mole, with a side of beans and rice. Often times, when I am lucky, my mother makes the most delicious mole dishes for the entire clan when she can get her hands on some authentic mole paste.
So it was for this reason that a visit from a former student made my day, month, and year. Why? Because she brought me some mole.
This was not just any mole. It was authentic Oaxacan mole paste that incorporates the rich, spicy, and sweet flavors only a mole can bring. But why was she bringing me mole?
To backtrack, Dalila was a student of mine when I was a teacher assistant in the early 90’s. As a 9th grader, she had just arrived to this country and was beginning to learn the language. I was assigned to help the English Learners as one of the only bilingual staff members on campus, and I immediately saw the will to succeed in Dalila’s eyes. I knew she would go far.
Dalila took advantage of all that public education has to offer. She resolved to learn English as soon as possible and fortunately my school at that time offered a bilingual class for newcomers. Dalila became fluent within three years. She sought the best learning opportunities at her succeeding school, Hollywood High School, and quickly rose to the top as a scholar and leader. Her entire family, from mother to sisters, became a prime example of how the promise of a better life is there for anyone who has the know-how and is willing to work hard.
All of her sisters are college graduates.
Her niece is in a prestigious private school.
And Dalila is a business owner of … a mole company.
The best surprises for teachers are when you see your students achieve their dreams, goals, and ambitions. I knew Dalila had the ability to go very far in her life because she would not be confined by her circumstances. Indeed, she went on to not only become a model employee of a business, she surpassed the performance of the owner and branched out on her own.
Thus, the double treat I received last month when in to my classroom came Dalila with a bag of red mole, black mole, and green mole, all for me to savor on a damp, fall night.
Sometimes we never find out what happens to our students. We remember their stories and faces, (although not always their names), and think about whether our actions guided them in the right directions. Sometimes we get lucky, and the students find us, even though we may move from school to school. It is these moments where teachers can take a break, smell the roses, and remember why we chose teaching in the first place: to make a difference in the lives of students.
As for Dalila, she trekked back to South Central in her BMW, to her humble place of origin during her years as an immigrant. As an American citizen now, she remembers the schools and teachers that helped her become who she is. She knows that her education wasn’t perfect, but at least she was eligible to receive one, and to take it as far as it would take her. And she knows that in life, reflection and gratitude make accomplishments that much sweeter to savor.
I wonder if there is an assessment that can measure that.
Look for La Chatita mole at an ethnic store near you. Website forthcoming.