Magazine article Techniques

An Interview with Adam L. Saenz: Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Magazine article Techniques

An Interview with Adam L. Saenz: Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Article excerpt

Adam L. Saenz, Ph.D., is the author of The Power of a Teacher. He will be the Opening General Session Speaker at ACTE's CareerTech VISION 2013.

ACTE: Briefly tell us about your background.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

AS: I think it safe to say I grew up in less than ideal circumstances. The immediate setting--a single parent, low-income, high-stress home; the broader setting--a small south-Texas community wrought with the racial tension fueled by conflict between Mexican-American farm workers and white landowners and politicians. Schoolwork always came pretty easily to me, so I managed to stay off the radar. But by the end of sixth grade, it was becoming obvious that I was headed down the wrong path. By the end of that year, two of my friends had been murdered, and I had been arrested for possession in retrospect, I realize I was using street drugs to self-medicate undiagnosed depression). My mom always worried that I was running with the wrong crowd, but in reality, I was the wrong crowd. I understood myself to be inadequate on all accounts, and I really didn't like myself.

ACTE: What happened that turned you from the dangerous path you were on?

AS: Child Protective Services was never involved in my family's life, but my mother knew things didn't look good for me. She relinquished parental rights so I could live with a family friend 100 hundred miles away in Katy, Texas. In my heart, I knew it was a clean start. None of the teachers or students in Katy knew me or my past. My Katy family loved me well, and I didn't have to worry about my personal safely or other needs being met. I like to refer back to that as my "Fresh Prince of Katy" years.

ACTE: Which teachers had the most profound impact on your life?

AS: I hit rock bottom a year after I 4 graduated from Katy High School--drugs and depression. It was in that darkest hour that I found two letters that were written to me by JoElla Exley and Polly McRoberts, two of my teachers at Katy High School. They wrote: "... You are wise, intelligent and mature ..." and "... you have a good heart, and I know you will use your talents to help your fellow man." Their words haunted me. I knew who I was, but in these letters, I had two women, for whom I had the highest respect, arguing against me. Alter week: and weeks of deliberation, I had to acception the possibility that maybe they were right about me, maybe they could see something in me I couldn't see in myself. In a step of faith, I registered for one class at the University of Texas at San Antonio: Introduction to English. Much to my amazement, I passed. The rest, as they say, is history.

ACTE: How would you describe The Power of a Teacher? What was your aim in writing it?

AS: The Power of a Teacher is a self-care manual for teachers. My purpose in writing was twofold: personal and professional. Personally, I wanted to both thank at encourage teachers by sharing my story. Professionally, as a licensed psychologist, I wanted to play a part in equipping teachers for the long haul in education. My story and thousands of others like mine is inspiring and encouraging, but that inspiration alone will not be enough to fuel a teacher day in and day out over a lifetime calling in education. There is tremendous honor in that life calling, an I wanted to create a resource to empower them to love themselves and take care of themselves, just as they do for so many others each day.

ACTE: You say in your book that "Identity and perceived value impact function and behavior." Tell us more about that. …

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