TED Talks

S1 E3 | CLIP

Victor Rios on a Teacher That Tapped into His Soul

In this excerpt from TED Talks: Education Revolution, Victor Rios, educator and author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys, who as a teen had been incarcerated three times by the time he was 15, talks about a teacher who changed his life. His teacher saw the potential in him despite his circumstances.

AIRED: September 12, 2016 | 0:01:56

By the time I was 15 years old,

I had been incarcerated in juvie 3 times for 3 felonies.

The reason I'm here today is because a teacher that cared

reached out and managed to tap into my soul.

This teacher, Mrs. Russ,

she was the kind of teacher that was always in your business.

I told her a story about my Uncle Ruben.

He would take me to work with him because I was broke,

and he knew I needed some money.

He collected glass bottles for a living.

4:00 in the morning on a school day,

we'd throw the glass bottles in the back of his van,

and the bottles would break,

and my hands and arms would start to bleed,

and I was terrified and in pain,

and I would stop working,

and my uncle, he would look at me in the eyes,

and he would say to me,

"Mijo, estamos buscando vida,"

we're searching for a better life,

we're trying to make something out of nothing.

Mrs. Russ listened to my story,

welcomed it into the classroom,

and said, "Victor, this is your power.

"This is your potential.

"Your family, your culture, your community

"have taught you a hard-work ethic,

"and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world

so you can come back and empower your community."

With Mrs. Russ' help,

I ended up returning to school.

I even finished my credits on time

and graduated with my class.