BRAWLEY — At the invitation of the White House, Brawley Union High School Civics teacher Jose Flores of Brawley traveled Friday with his superintendent, Simon Canales, to Washington D.C. to be honored with the Presidential Environmental Education Award.
Flores has been riding a wave of accolades starting with Imperial County Teacher of the Year in 2014, then regional recognition, on to the state Supreme Court judicial awards (twice), and now riding that crest right to the White House where Secretary of Education, John B. King Jr., will honor Flores.
“We are still riding the wave. The wave is now taking us across the nation!” Flores said his fellow teachers jokingly say.
The day before traveling, Flores received an email from the White House asking if he would introduce Secretary King from the podium, and if so, if he could send his prepared remarks in the next few hours.
Flores jumped at the honor, but remarked that he could not write anything until after his students finished cross-country training.
“I still have my work to do, even if the White House calls. The parents expect me to be training their kids. I have to be on the field with them,” Flores said.
While back in Washington D.C. for five days, Flores will be kept busy filming a documentary on education. Later, the film crew will come to Brawley High to put Flores’ remarks into context.
He has also been asked to participate as an expert in a panel roundtable on motivating youth to become involved in civics from understanding the three branches, to voting, to becoming active participants in the republic.
Flores has been to Sacramento several times since winning a state judicial award. Canales, who has accompanied Flores each time said, “It is amazing to find all the top people in the Capitol are on a first name basis with our civics teacher.”
Through all of this, the Brawley teacher remains humble.
“In truth, the kids do all of the work, if they did not rise to the challenge, I would not be here. They do the work and I get all the credit,” Flores said.
Besides all the honors he has received, Flores is most excited about the doors that have opened for the students.
“They are not AP or Honor students. Some barely speak English,” Flores said. “They have no networking to get them out of the bottom of society. But with their work, they see they can do anything. One student, Chris Nunez, we took him to Sacramento with us to be on a judicial panel, and at the end, State Supreme Court Chief Justice, Judith McConnell, handed him her business card and said, ‘When you go looking for a job, let me know. I want to write you a letter of recommendation.’”
As a result of that contact, Chris Nunez is now working as an intern with Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia with his office at the Imperial County Airport.