The Cuevas – fulfilling a dream
The 1997 EVHS graduates, now a married couple, are back in the Eagle County School District these days, but are experiencing education from an entirely different perspective.
Robert, 24, is a Spanish teacher at Eagle Valley High School, as well as an assistant coach for football and track; Becky, 23, teaches Spanish literacy to first graders at Gypsum Elementary School, a program that allows the children to have reading and writing instruction in their native language prior to transitioning over to learn those skills in English.
Both of the Cuevas are bilingual, and both are a little surprised, and pleased, to find themselves back working in the school system they grew up in.
“I always thought that if I could come back here, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Robert Cuevas, a big, friendly fellow with an easy smile. “I’m loving being in my home town.”
Both grew up in Gypsum. He is a native of Mexico, who could speak only Spanish when he moved here with his family at age 5. He recalls that at the time (the early 1980s), there were very few Spanish-speaking students in the local schools, and not many teachers of English as a Second Language. He was placed in a what he describes as a “sink or swim” educational program.
“I’m still swimming,” he said with a grin.
Becky and Robert Cuevas began going together toward the end of their freshman year at EVHS. After graduation, they went in different directions. She initially started in the nursing program at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and he went to school at Western State College in Gunnison. After a couple of years, Becky Cuevas, who had a strong background in Spanish, decided she wanted to work with healthy kids, rather than sick children, and started pursuing a teaching major. Robert Cuevas transferred from Western State to UNC.
Once they completed their college degrees, they looked for work in Fort Collins, Greeley, and Brighton. Then came an opportunity back in their home territory: Gypsum Elementary School Principal Mike Gass had an opening for a first-grade teacher, and the Spanish teacher and coaching positions opened up at EVHS.
Last year was a big one for the Cuevas. They both started their first year of teaching, and their daughter, Kaylee, now nine months old, was born.
Both acknowledged there is some awkwardness in now being on the same professional level as many people who were formerly their teachers. She had Gass as an eighth-grade algebra teacher; he sometimes finds it hard to call his colleagues by their first names rather than by the “Mr. Scott” or “Mr. Zimmerman,” titles he first knew them by.
“It is a respect thing,” he explained.
“It’s nice that they treat us as professionals. We’re not kids any more,” she added.
Robert Cuevas also finds himself teaching students who are the younger brothers or sisters of some of the friends he grew up with. He enjoys the opportunity to be an influence in a younger person’s life.
“I always had in mind coming back to be a mentor to Hispanic kids,” he said.
The cost of living in the valley was a concern for the couple, but when an opportunity to purchase a modest home in the Gypsum Estates subdivision came up, they were ready. They can both walk or bicycle to their jobs, and are delighted to be near their families.
Both of the Cuevases are now enrolled in the masters degree program that the school district offers through the University of Colorado.
They’re not sure where their futures will take them, although both voice a desire to raise their children in a small town.
“It is funny. We never thought we would end up here,” said Becky Cuevas. “We’re happy. We have great jobs, and good friends.”