Professor Leslie Corona: "Changing history is not easy. But the fight is worth fighting."
Professor Leslie Corona's passion for teaching is highly palpable. When you speak to her, you can't help but get swept up in her energy. Her love of history, and the ways in which she emits that out to her students, are no doubt what make her a great addition to the San Jose City College team.
When she graduated from Grad School in San Jose State in 2018, Professor Corona never missed a beat. Within a few months, she had gotten a job offer from San Jose City College. And she didn't hesitate to accept. Her teaching career at SJCC began in the Fall of 2018.
This summer, Professor Corona is teaching a History 17B course to 110 students, all of whom are from Milpitas High School. This is her first time teaching a summer course for the Milpitas Extension. SJCC's main campus and Extension campus remain closed during the pandemic. And so Professor Corona must also, for the first time, work with students that she most likely will never get to meet.
"You don't want to lower the quality of teaching, just because you're online," said Professor Corona. "You want to make it vigorous, but not too challenging. I'm trying to make it vigorous and easy to use, access, and understand."
Professor Corona mentioned that for her regular in-person classes, she had spent time and energy planning her lectures before she'd go into class.
"I'd go to class and feed off the students and their responses. If one of my classes was loud and active, I tended to give them presentations or discussions to do so I could put their out-going energy to good use. But if the class was quiet and shy--or at night--I tended to give them group work or individual work to create a quieter, more intimate atmosphere. But now that everything's online, none of that matters anymore!" she said.
The History 17B class covers modern history after the reconstruction period, spanning from after 1877-2000.
This summer's 6-week course contains 6 units of study. It goes 4 days a week, Monday-Thursday.
"I don’t actually use a textbook. I write all the history myself," said Professor Corona. "I wrote all the lectures. That's how you keep them interested. You write it in a way that's fun and entertaining."
Her students sometimes tell her that they can actually "hear" her voice while they're reading the pages. It's almost as if that energy that Professor Corona carries into class lectures is there, too-passionately filling up the pages.
"I'm a clown in person and I couldn’t give them something dry," said Professor Corona.
She also added:
"I might be biased, but I think history is the most important subject you can learn in school. It teaches you everything. We can't understand ourselves if we don't know our roots, not as individuals or as a country. And understanding ourselves in that context is extremely important. History is a study of the past. We're trying to figure out how we got to where we are. So if we know that, we know what to expect in the future, and how we can possibly shape the future."
Corona feels deeply connected to the community in San Jose. Her parents are both from Mexico City, but they ultimately came to live in San Jose, where Corona was born.
"The majority of Evergreen and San Jose City College students are people of color. And that speaks to me. Just knowing that people of color and Latinos have low graduation rates and high drop-out rates, that keeps me up at night," said Professor Corona. "That needs to change. And how do we solve these challenges? It starts with passionate teachers who want to be there and want their students to learn something and succeed. Students should always be the priority."
In our rapidly changing environment, where the killing of George Floyd has led people to more closely examine themselves and systemic racism, Professor Corona is hopeful. Her perspective as a History Professor is a valuable one:
"We've been here before. It might seem scary, unchangeable, and overwhelming. But previous generations have been through this, too. They got through it and we'll get through it," said Professor Corona. "And every time people go through it, things improve. Make sure you're on the right side of history. Stay strong. Changing history is not easy. But the fight is worth fighting. We owe it to ourselves and to the activists and victims of the past. They fought hard and bravely and never gave up, even when results took years to manifest and even if they were constantly threatened with violence and death. They knew the fight was worthwhile, just like our fight is worthwhile today. Keep going. Stay optimistic, and make history."