Possessing an individually unique teaching style and an intent to help students identify how social problems are perpetuated, Aurelio Javier Chapa has been a San Jose City College professor for 23 years and is not your archetypal Ph.D. professor.
Chapa was raised in Livermore, California, in the 1970s and remembers his family’s focus on higher education and his father’s emphasis on originality.
“When I first started playing the guitar, I got really good really quick,” Chapa said. “And I remember I was in my bedroom playing a solo to a Jimi Hendrix song and my dad walked in and he looked at me and he said, ‘Mijo, that is amazing. That is fantastic. The only problem that I can see is Jimi Hendrix already has the job.’”
Chapa’s adventure of education and originality extended when he continued on in his later years of higher education being the only student accepted into the University of California, Berkeley from his graduating class.
He then proceeded to achieve his master’s degree at Holy Names University and has recently finished his doctorate at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Chapa admits his influence from the Catholic Church and said, “Nobody has been here before so we are all figuring it out for the first time. And that informs my very being.”
Chapa entered into the field of Teaching as a result of a recession.
“There were no jobs so I was forced to consider Grad School. When I finished Grad School, my mentor, Dr. Richmond, said I had to get a job at a college,” Chapa said. “So I ended up coming to San Jose City College. I taught three or four semesters; and I got a full-time job, which was not easy.”
Chapa teaches English courses at SJCC. He is the only English professor to teach Introduction to Shakespeare.
One of his recent students for the course has described his teaching style as “unique … and fun.”
Another student said that Chapa “really helps students understand prejudices and biases that have long existed in western democracies” as seen through Shakespearean plays.
Chapa points out that “racism isn’t something new. It’s always been there. And you’re talking to a male of colour.”
He continued with an analogy, “We all have to run a mile around a track. When you’re a person of colour, they say when you get to the last lap, ‘oh, no, you have to go run the stands and be chased with knives and run the gauntlet.’”
Chapa doesn’t believe in arguing facts. He invites people to believe what they believe, but will do everything he can to help the youth of the world understand how to quash bias and prejudice.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I have accomplished or what I have done,” Chapa said. “I want people to think about what they’re actually saying.”