Despite the unusual circumstances of this school year—teaching online for the foreseeable future—Pueblo High School still has its share of new teachers and staff, including Ms. Lucero Ramirez, who is teaching freshman English.
Ramirez, who said that she would rather teach in person than online because students could do more activities in the classroom, said that she will make the most out of ZOOM sessions.
“It’s been very stressful teaching online,” Ramirez said. “It’s very complicated, but I am getting the hang of it.”
Ramirez is happy to return to Pueblo because it’s her alma mater. She graduated in 2016, just four years ago, and said that even after she graduated, she didn’t want to leave.
“It’s good to be back home and being the teacher this time,” she said.
She added that she chose to become an English teacher because of her positive experiences in her own high school English classes.
“I loved writing in high school,” Ramirez said, “and I want to share that love with students.”
She added, “Ms. [Kelly] Crane [who retired from Pueblo several years ago] inspired me to become an English teacher because she was always understanding, patient and thoughtful. She really took the time to coach and mentor me. I really loved going to her class every day.
Ramirez said that she is happy to have chosen education as a career, but she said that she wishes public education would invest more money and time to have more resources to address students’ emotional and mental issues.
“I think that a student’s overall well-being is a critical factor in their academic success. I think we would start seeing more enthusiasm for learning from our students.”
Online or back in the classroom, Ramirez said that she is very enthusiastic about beginning her teaching career at Pueblo.
On Tuesday, Jan. 14, nearly 300 Pueblo High School students crammed into six buses and traveled to downtown Tucson’s magnificently renovated Fox Theater to view the premiere of Bill, a play-turned-movie recalling the much celebrated life of Mr. Bill De La Rosa, a class of 2012 graduate, whose academic and young career accolades rival some of the most successful people in the United States.
Pueblo students, this trip was more than a 10-minute bus ride to downtown
Tucson; it was an opportunity to be inspired by their fellow Warrior.
Xavier Carassco said, “I really like how the movie portrayed Bill as not being happy
with the way he was living and how he changed his life to make it amazing. He
added, “Bill shows that there are no excuses.”
De La Rosa was present at the Fox Theatre– as this was his first peak at the film. He gladly greeted many students from several schools at this event. Also, TUSD School Board members and prominent local leaders were eager to support the success of De La Rosa.
The Lapan Foundation leaders were present as well and spoke about how their organization helps students become engaged in their education. When De La Rosa was a sophomore, he became a mentor to middle school students and helped guide them to successful paths in high school—leading to collegiate successes.
All of the
children who acted in Bill are members of the Lapan Foundation. They are
part of the group’s Theater Club, and for the past year or so, they have been
preparing this film.
Senior Danielle Rojas was one of those Lapan Foundation members that played a small role in the film.
was really cool to be a part of the movie, Bill,” said Rojas, “and re-enacting
these parts of Bill’s life helped me become more understanding of the
circumstances of those around me and to become more accepting.”
This trip would not have been possible without three weeks of careful and meticulous planning from Pueblo counselor Dr. Teresa Toro, who also recalls De La Rosa in his early high school years at Pueblo. In the movie, there is a brief scene depicting De La Rosa speaking with a counselor.
“Bill is definitely a role model for the Latino community,” Toro said. “This movie was more than just a movie about Bill De La Rosa—it’s a story about resiliency and beating the odds.”
It’s not every day that a Pueblo High School student is celebrated in a play/film, but that’s exactly what Bill does—recounting the accomplishments and tragedies in the young 25-year-old life of Mr. Bill De La Rosa, a Class of 2012 graduate.
After a run as a play in local theaters, Bill
has been made into a feature film and will premiere at the Fox Theater on
Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.
“The whole thing [my life being turned into a movie]
is very humbling, and I originally had no idea that my life was being
celebrated publicly,” De La Rosa said.
He added that the film touches on his successes and
traumas in life before and since graduating from Pueblo almost eight years ago
as his class’ valedictorian—including his numerous scholarships totaling more
than $500,000. De La Rosa attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and
Oxford University in England, earning two master’s degrees in criminal justice
and immigration studies.
“I wish I could say I was finished with school, but
I’m not,” De La Rosa said. He plans to pursue a law degree “back East” next
summer, either at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. or Harvard University in
De La Rosa also shared his tragedies in his young
life, including the deportation of his mother to Mexico in 2009 when he was a
sophomore at Pueblo. Two years later in 2011, his father suffered a stroke, and
De La Rosa was able to see his mother on a “temporary humanitarian parole”
status. He saw her again in the summer of 2018 when his father suffered a fatal
“If all goes well, my mother will back in the United
States next June ,” De La Rosa said, hoping that immigration lawyers will
expedite the process.
For now, De La Rosa said he is staying in Tucson and
spending time with his family, including his brother Bobby (a freshman at
Pueblo) and his sister Naomi, who is currently a University of Arizona student.
As for the film, Bill, De La Rosa said, “I’m
still very humbled that I have inspired a movie about my life.” He paused and
added, “I want everybody to know that if I can do it, they can do it.”
The last time Ms. Angelica Aros was at Pueblo, as a high school senior in the 1999-2000 school year, PHS still had pay phones around campus; 18 years ago, students—and much of the world—did not know what cell phones were. People were still “paging” on their “beepers”, she recalled.
Aros is Pueblo’s newest attendance clerk—filling in for Ms. Rosalie Sinteral, who retired in December. But, she is not new to working in T.U.S.D.
“I know this [attendance office] work extremely well,” Aros said. “I could do this job in my sleep.”
Prior to returning to Pueblo, Aros worked at Pistor Middle School for seven years; then, she moved to Hohokam Middle School until the facility closed, at which time she transitioned to Tucson High Magnet School, where she remained for nearly four years.
Following graduation from Pueblo High School in the spring of 2000, Aros (whose maiden name was Miranda) attended Pima Community College with a soccer scholarship.
“Sports were always my passion in high school,” Aros said. “In fact, they still are.”
She added that although she loves her job, sometimes she chuckles at some of the excuses parents give for their children being absent or tardy.
“I could probably write a book about all of the stories I’ve heard [from parents],” Aros said. “As silly as some of the excuses are, we [the attendance office] have to accept them as legitimate.”
Except for the pay phones being removed from campus, Aros said that Pueblo “pretty much looks the same” as it did back in 2000.
Former Pueblo student Ms. Imelda G. Cortez has returned to Pueblo to teach junior and senior English. As a 2009 high school graduate, Cortez began her collegiate career at the University of Arizona where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mexican-American studies; later, she earned a Master’s degree in higher education.
Cortez explained that she decided to become a teacher while attending middle school. After attending Pueblo and graduating eight years ago in 2009, she definitely knew that she wanted to become a Warrior alumni.
“It’s [returning to Pueblo is] really like coming home,” Cortez said. “I feel like I’m returning the favor.”
She added that she hopes that all of her students will pass her class and earn their language arts credits in order to graduate from high school.
“I have to admit that I truly like all of my students this school year, and I can honestly say that I don’t have one bad class,” Cortez said.
This doesn’t mean that Cortez doesn’t have her fair share of teacher challenges.
“Finding content that is appealing to all students can be challenging,” she said. “Most of my students—not all—don’t seem to be interested in anything [at this time of the school year]. This makes teaching harder.”
She added that she has also learned that that treating students with dignity and respect is key to having a good relationship with them.
“Students reciprocate those actions [dignity and respect] with their teachers,” Cortez said. “I have also learned that it’s best to be as transparent as you can with students as opposed to making things up. One of my classroom agreements is: no one knows everything, but together we know a lot.”
Cortez also helps out with the “IAMME” Club—providing support and resources for what the students want to do for the club and school.
One of Cortez’ current students, senior Riana Lara, said, “I love being in Ms. Cortez’ English class because I’m able to speak my opinion and how she motivates and engages her students to complete all of the great activities that she assigns.”
On December 1, 2017, four Warrior students will travel to Denver to witness former Pueblo student Lafayette “Fat” Lever’s “Retiring of a Jersey” (No. 12) ceremony, accompanied by exceptional education teacher and yearbook advisor Ms. Marie Little and Assistant Principal Frank Rosthenhausler.
Students may know that Pueblo has a “Lever” Gym, but sadly, many of our current Warriors do not even know Lever about his legendary status—how remarkable this Warrior was back in his high school days and how nationally acclaimed he would become well into the 1990s.
Lever began playing for the Denver Nuggets from 1984-1990, and during those seven seasons, he averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists. A two-time “All Star”, Lever ranks first all-time in franchise history in steals (1,167), second in assists (3,566), seventh in points (8,081) and eighth in rebounds (3,621).
And to think that this former all-star basketball player got his first taste of fame here at Pueblo during two very definitive basketball seasons: 1976-77 and 1977-78; Pueblo’s varsity basketball teams were State Champions for two consecutive years. Today, Lever Gym boasts these victorious seasons with banners that will definitely stand the test of time.
Math teacher Ms. Martha Avila-Miranda was a senior when our varsity Warrior basketball team won their first State championship.
“I have proud and fond memories of my high school years at Pueblo,” Avila-Miranda said, “and it was an exciting time to be a Warrior—especially as a member of the pom/cheer team traveling to all the basketball games. School and community spirit was sky high during the mid and late 1970s. I definitely remember the basketball team under the direction of coach [Roland] Lavetter and the leadership of Fat Lever, who was very disciplined—and that model of working and playing hard transferred to all who knew them.”
She added, “After all of these years, I am so touched to know that our former leaders and heroes have not forgotten their roots and are giving back to our Warrior community. I see many of the team members at different events here at PHS. I just want to say congratulations to Fat and all of his accomplishments. He is another reason that he has made us all proud to be Warriors.”
Lever, a 6’3” point guard, did not begin his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets, however. Two years earlier, Lever was the 11th overall pick in the 1981 draft—selected by the Portland Trailblazers after a successful run playing for the Arizona State University basketball team. (Lever would eventually return to ASU and complete his degree in education in 1996.)
By the time Lever arrived in Denver in 1984, the Nuggets were in desperate need of a miracle. That came in the 1985 season—when Lever helped the team advance to the Western Conference finals. Although the team would lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games, this season would prove to be the Nuggets’ most successful.
Although Lever played for the Dallas Mavericks from 1990-1994, Lever affirmed in several interviews that his heart was always with the Denver Nuggets. Due to several knee injuries and other circumstances, Lever retired from the NBA in 1994.
Lever later become a broadcaster for the Sacramento [California] Kings from 2007-2014, and eventually he returned to Arizona—Chandler, specifically—where he is currently a consultant in sports and international business. He also works with the Junior NBA program.
Our four Pueblo students—one from each of the media programs (radio, television, journalism and yearbook)—will have the privilege of witness Lever’s jersey being officially “retired” during a halftime Nuggets game on Saturday, Dec. 2.
After two weeks of raising enough money for airfare through many generous donors—and through a lot of tenacity and perseverance!—our Warriors depart from Tucson International Airport at 6 a.m. and will return to Tucson Sunday morning.
Yearbook student Andrew T. Romero, a junior, is the representative from his class and was very instrumental in initiating this trip. Back in October, Romero’s yearbook teacher, Ms. Marie Little, announced to her class that Lafayette (“Fat”) Lever’s jersey was going to be retired at a Denver Nuggets on Dec. 2 and that it would be a great opportunity for several of our Pueblo media students to travel to Denver and interview Lever and be a part of this historical sports moment.
From there, Romero had a conversation with former assistant principal Eduardo Nuñez (who was also a 1960 Pueblo High School graduate), who contacted Lever regarding Lever’s retirement celebration and getting Pueblo students there for this event. From there, Lever contacted Little—and Lever was able to get six media passes to the Dec. 2 Nuggets game. Lever is also taking care of our Warriors’ hotel costs for two nights.
Romero said, “I knew early on that this trip was going to be a possibility, and although I didn’t think I would be selected to participate. However, the universe likes me—I happen to be at the right place at the right time. My grades were low, but I was able to bring them up to passing, and therefore I now became eligible to represent yearbook.”
Romero approached Pueblo Principal Dr. Augustine Romero about this proposition and got his “thumbs up”.
“This trip [to Denver] is a great opportunity for our students!” Principal Romero said. “Lafayette [Lever] was, indeed, very generous!”
Junior Laura Conde, advanced journalism student, learned that she was going after editor-in-chief Iram Arce turned down the opportunity because he had “absolutely no interest in basketball.” Therefore, journalism teacher Mr. Rana Medhi selected Laura because of her excellent journalism skills.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high,” Conde said, “because the whole thing seemed kind of far-fetched. But, now that we have our Southwest Airlines tickets, it’s definitely real. I’m looking forward to the interviewing process—obviously the most important story I’ll be writing.”
Radio student Marissa Orr, a senior, “When Ms. Wilson told me to go outside with Ms. Little, I thought I was framed or something. But, then I found out that I was selected to be the representative of radio to travel to Denver. This is an awesome opportunity for me—and I feel honored and privileged to have been selected by Ms. Wilson to represent radio.
Television student Efrain Estrella, another senior, said, “I feel very blessed and very lucky to be selected to go on this trip because it is a really big opportunity to not only for myself but my peers who will be coming along with me. This trip means a great deal to Pueblo High School as a whole, too.”
Ms. Marie Little, who will be co-escorting the students to Denver, said, “After the initial phone call, Lever was making contacts to ensure that all costs could be covered. Unfortunately, he was unable to secure airfare costs, so we had eight days to raise money to fly us six to Denver.”
Little said that in just eight days, she and the four students were able to raise $2,385—much of which came from current and former Pueblo faculty and staff members.
“We are beyond overwhelmed by the generosity of the Pueblo community,” Little said.
Mr. Frank Rosthenhausler, the other co-escort, said, “The entire Pueblo community is very excited about this trip. It’s awesome that our students are learning part of Pueblo’s history and also participating in the Denver Nuggets’ history. Very few students will ever get this kind of opportunity.”
Rosthenhausler added that he was a bit skeptical at first regarding the prospect of Ms. Little and students raising money for the air fare.
“The airline tickets were a hefty price, but they pulled it off,” he said. “I love how they were able to achieve this goal in such a short time.”
The entire Pueblo community anxiously awaits the students’ return to Pueblo to hear the highlights of this historical moment in sports history. The fact that Lever began his rise to athletic stardom and legendary sports acclaim right here at Pueblo makes this story even that much more powerful.