CUE recently announced the on-boarding of their new Director of Finances, Jose Garcia. Although Garcia doesn’t officially start until July 1st, I had the opportunity to speak to him and find out more about CUE’s newest staff member – who is both an educator and financial extraordinaire!

KO: Please describe your background and work experience prior to joining CUE.

JG: My background and work experience extend to both business and education. I have held different roles in the financial services industry through JPMorgan Chase, and I have been a teacher throughout Monterey County for K-12 and Adult Ed. I would describe myself as someone who has a passion for both business and education.

KO: What made you decide to take a job with the CUE organization?

JG: I have always wanted to be part of an organization where I can make a difference in the entire field of education. See, when I was a teacher, I thought it was fantastic that I got to pass on knowledge to my students in order to help them grow. I was making positive impacts in the lives of my students. However, I was only able to impact 20-30 students in any given year. When I got into the field of adult education, that number increased to 80-100 students a year. And when I became the Director of Fiscal Services, I was directly/indirectly providing a positive impact to a District of 120-150 students. However, in my mind and in my heart, I wanted to be part of something even bigger. When my former Superintendent, now Executive Director of CUE Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez, joined CUE, she began telling me about all of the amazing innovations CUE is bringing to the field of education. I began to research CUE, and the more I learned, the more I was interested in being part of this organization. I feel that CUE is not simply an organization, it is a movement to innovate the field of education and elevate our educators to greater heights previously not thought possible. CUE focuses on helping all teachers be the best they can be, in order to positively impact all students. With my vision to create a positive impact in the field of education, what better place is there to work at other than CUE? On top of that, this organization is now led by one of the greatest leaders I have ever met in my career, Executive Director Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez. All of this combined, I feel that I am home. CUE is my organization. CUE is where I want to be. CUE is where I will make that positive impact to all students and more. It is truly an honor to find one’s perfect job, and I have found it.

“I feel that CUE is not simply an organization, it is a movement to innovate the field of education and elevate our educators to greater heights previously not thought possible. CUE focuses on helping all teachers be the best they can be, in order to positively impact all students.” – Jose Garcia

KO: How did you get started in finances?

JG: This is actually a funny, yet great story. When I was in high school, I was always really good at math – top of my class – and so when an opportunity came to become a “High School Internship” employee at Washington Mutual Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), all of my teachers were glad to provide me with a recommendation. Well, I got the job and became the youngest intern to have been hired at Washington Mutual being only 14 years old at the time. By the time I was 17 years old and a senior in high school, I was promoted to what was then called an “Operational Supervisor” at Washington Mutual. I remember one of my high school teachers,  Ms. Ibarra, walked into the bank one day when we had a huge line, and she told me “If only all of these people knew that a 17 year old is running this operation–go you.” That made me feel great. It made me feel like I was doing something right, something that was easy to me, and that I found fun.

I will pause the story there to insert a small note: I was always terrible at my English classes. I had good grades, but always barely got by. In fact, I think some of my English teachers would feel sorry for me and give me a good grade for all the effort I put in — Mrs. Brusch, I really hope you don’t read this. So naturally, when it came time to pick our careers and sign up for colleges, all of my teachers were saying, “Jose is going to be a Finance Manager.” “With his brain, Jose is going to be some rich stock broker in a few years.” “Look at him, he’s already in the banking industry, he’s just going to promote there.”  So naturally, when the time came to check my major for college, I chose to be…an English teacher! I remember looking at all of my teachers’ faces when I told them my decision, some of their jaws literally dropped. “Jose, what are you doing?” “What are you thinking?” “Do you know how much money you could make where you are at now and with your skill set?” These were the comments they were all making and this was my response:

“I love the way English teachers have the flexibility to inspire their students to do so much more, to believe in themselves, to grow. I know I could have chosen to be a math teacher or pursued the banking industry, those routes may have been easier, but I know I am not a good writer. How am I to grow if I don’t embrace what I am weak at?”

That is how I chose to become a teacher and got started in finances. Thereafter, while I was in college I remained at Washington Mutual, which was later bought by JPMorgan Chase. I held many roles such as Loan Specialist, Finance Manager, and most recently Business Specialist. I guess one could say that my career in finances found me, and my passion for education has always been what has guided me.

KO: What does your day-to-day work look like? (Tell us what you do!)

JG: As a Director of Fiscal Services, especially at a small school district, you do it all. Your days are filled with an array of different tasks and you just have to find a way to chip away at them. At San Antonio Union School District, my official job title read “Director of Fiscal Services,” but in reality I also held the titles of “Director of Human Resources, Director of Technology, Director of Payroll, CBO, etc.” So my days often looked like I had 200 things to do at once, and I had to pick a route, while of course prioritizing what was due first. I never mind the high-paced work environment as one is never without something to do, and there is always something new to learn. On top of that, I will always be the first to tell you that my title only emphasizes what I specialize in for our organization, but I will never be afraid to put the gloves on and do what it takes to help our organization succeed. At San Antonio Union School District, I did everything. At one point I was delivering lunches to the students because our cafeteria was out of commission as we were in the process of a modernization of our main building. I also assisted in the classrooms from time to time. That is the type of dedication I bring to the organizations I work for, and that is the type of dedication I will bring to CUE.

KO: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

JG: I live a pretty simple lifestyle. When I am not working, I like to relax. I don’t have kids but I do have puppies, two chihuahuas. So when I am not working, I like to relax with them. Go for a walk or go to the park with them. I also have a beautiful girlfriend, who is quite shy so I will not mention her by name here! But she too is an educator at heart, and has always been supportive of my goals and dreams. My girlfriend and I like to go on simple morning dates to have breakfast, and when we can we will travel. Overall, I would definitely say I enjoy keeping things easy in my life.


KO: With summer approaching, do you have any summer plans? If so, please describe.

JG: Given the current COVID-19 situation, I really do not have any summer plans at this time. One of my puppies just had to have a surgery, so a lot of my time this summer will be to take care of her and make sure she is healthy again soon! 

KO: Do you enjoy reading? What are you currently reading?

JG: Here is something interesting, I will read, but I am a speed reader. I struggle to stay engaged for long periods of time reading unless it is a piece that is absolutely necessary for my career or education. During the work I did for my Master’s of Business Administration, I want to say that I read more than I have ever read in my entire life. My brain functions best from high and complex interaction. I grew up as a gamer; my mom bought me my first Super Nintendo at age 4 and I would beat all the games she would buy me within a few days. Gradually I worked my way up to more complicated systems. I delve into computers and I like to mess with coding. I enjoy complicated puzzles that challenge my mind to levels I did not think possible. I believe this is why I am so good at business, or why I was able to develop my MBA thesis: A multivariate analysis of business profitability. I like to look at situations through a kaleidoscope and find solutions not thought possible. This is how my mind has always functioned, and this too is why I could understand how the field of education is changing. Nowadays, things like tablets and cell phones have completely changed the way our students interact and receive their education.

I grew up with a subtle version of that, and so working at CUE is going to be amazing, as together we can find a way to better the adoption of technology into the foundations of the field of education. The fact of the matter is technology is changing our world every single day, and I believe CUE is a leader in the conversation of technological innovation in education. – Jose Garcia

KO: Is there anything else you would like to share with OnCUE readers?

JG: I just want to say that I am truly excited to be here at CUE. I am an educator. I am a business person. I am a student. I am a lifelong learner. Most of all, I am a system of support for all educators and students. I am truly excited to be in a position that I feel is the perfect fit for me. As I have already said, CUE is my home. The organization I have always been looking for, and I have found it. Now that I am here, I am ready to make an impact in the field of education. Together, with all CUE Members out there, I know that we will be able to do that. Thank you for having me, and thank you again for the opportunity to be part of the CUE Team!

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.