Feb 20, 2024
Topic: My Why
While Josue Velazquez’s main role as a physical education teacher at Twain Elementary School is to teach the students how to be fit and keep active, he’s much more than that. If you look up the word “mentor” in the dictionary, you might find a photo of him as he’s the quintessential coach for the young kids at Twain. Although he’s only been at the school for two years, he’s made a huge impact on the students. “Kids gravitate towards me because I engage with them. I ask them how they’re doing and socialize with them. I build relationships,” said Velazquez. In fact, many students at Twain call him “tio,” which is Spanish for “uncle” … a term of endearment. “Our students need a positive, male, Latino role model and I’m glad I can provide that for them. I look like them and can relate to many of their experiences as I was once in their shoes,” he adds.
At Twain, Velazquez teaches five out of the six special education P.E. classes. Students with autism and sensory needs have to be taken into consideration, so he dims the lights and stays conscious of the noise level. And it’s not an easy task juggling the requirements and expectations of all the students. In fact, there are some who don’t want to participate in the daily activities. But Velazquez makes the class fun by inspiring them and celebrating the small successes. Last year, not one student could climb the gym rope to the top. This year, 10 students were able to climb it. “It shows that our students are getting stronger,” he said. “There is still room to grow, but we celebrate each accomplishment,” he added.
Velazquez was born in Puerto Rico and came to the states with his family when he was five years old. The family settled in Chicago and then moved to the suburbs where Velazquez went to high school. After graduating, Valezquez worked in sales and HVAC before deciding on a career in education. He spent the first three years studying at College of Lake County and the last two at Elmhurst University, earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education with a minor in health. He student-taught at Field Elementary, Holmes Middle School and institutions in Round Lake. But it was his time coaching early learning students at different park districts in Lake County with Jelly Bean Sports, where he cultivated his skills for teaching. At Twain, he also volunteers for lunch, recess duty and drop-off duty. He also coaches “Girls on the Run.”
Outside of work – as you can imagine – he’s very active, playing men’s softball, camping, hiking and guiding his own two children to a better, more healthy lifestyle.