For many who work at or attend San José City College, it feels like family. For the Paiz family, City College has been a part of their family for over thirty years.
Teresa Paiz grew up in the eastern foothills of San José. After graduating from Independence High School, she decided to go to Evergreen Valley College (EVC). She found an evening job at EVC as a dispatcher for campus police. After being in the position for a while, she heard they needed a dispatcher and office assistant at City College, so she began working there in May 1989.
Teresa was going to school at EVC during the day and working at City College at night. She was young, single, and didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license. Her father would drop her off and pick her up from her shifts that were Mondays through Thursdays from 4:00p.m. to 10:00p.m.
After graduating from EVC in 1989, she continued working her evening dispatch shift and took an hourly office assistant job with the Dean of Humanities and Social Science. Sign Language was a part of the Social Sciences department at that time and Teresa wanted to communicate better with some of the faculty she worked with who were deaf. She enrolled in her first Sign Language course at City soon after.
On October 17, 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit northern California just after 5 p.m. Teresa was working her dispatcher shift when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. “We all stood by the doorways,” Teresa remembers. “I saw the police cars and the vans rolling. I was a 21 years-old at the time, saying, ‘oh my god, is this it?’” Teresa laughs, “Living in California, I had experienced earthquakes before, but never like that!”
She was still relatively new at City College’s dispatch, but she provided much needed assistance to ensure everyone’s safety. “We worked late in the evening to make sure everybody was evacuated and there weren’t any classes,” recalls Teresa. “It was a very busy night. There was some minor structural damage, but I don’t remember anybody being hurt.”
In 1992, she heard they were going to eliminate the evening dispatch shift she had. So, Teresa applied for a classified Admissions and Records position, and she has been in the Admissions and Records (A&R) office ever since. In 2016, she was promoted to Director of A&R.
In the 1990’s, Teresa got married and had two children, Vanessa and John. City College had a Child Development Center (CDC) then, so she was conveniently able to drop her children off at the beginning of her workday and pick them up in the afternoon. The CDC provided a safe place for her children to play with other kids and had a structured preschool, too, with a curriculum that helped children prepare for kindergarten and gain basic reading skills.
“It was wonderful,” reminisces Teresa, “because I got to have my kids right there, entrusted with instructors I knew not only as teachers but as colleagues. I trusted my kids there with the services they provided. If they needed me, say if my kids were sick, I was right there. Also, some of the Early Childhood Education college students were able to get their hands-on hours completed there.”
Vanessa and John Paiz remember going to the CDC even though they were very young. “I remember one time they took us outside to have a little Mother’s Day photoshoot,” Vanessa says. “They put me in a little dress and took a picture of us to give our moms. My mom still has the picture to this day.”
Her younger brother John recalls with a smile, “I remember running away from the teachers. They had escalators over there, so I remember running up them and the teachers saying, ‘oh, don’t run!’”
Both Vanessa and John are less than two years apart in age. They grew up close to their mother’s childhood home near Alum Rock Park in San José. They both graduated from Piedmont High School, and both were encouraged by their mom to go to City College.
John remembers his mom telling him that for his first two years “it’s basically the same classes at San José State as are here at City. It will be a lot better for you, and you’ll get a lot more experience going to City. What I can tell from my time at San José State verses City, I feel I got a lot more help from City College, for sure.”
After Vanessa graduated high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. City College became a great place for her to explore her options.
“I don’t think I was ready to go to an actual university yet,” says Vanessa. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I wanted for a major. I started going to City and my mom and I would talk about what I should study. I started going in the path of Early Childhood Development which is funny to me, because I started at the preschool daycare center there. Now I’m a preschool teacher because of City College. It’s very crazy to think about.”
Vanessa graduated with two associate degrees from City College – a transfer degree in Early Childhood Development and a Behavioral Science degree. She transferred and received her bachelor’s degree from San José State. In February 2020, she started at Kidango in San José where she worked with her first preschool class. She was there only a few weeks before everyone had to transition to remote learning for her preschool students.
“I’m seeing all of these little five year-olds go on Zoom for class,” states Vanessa, “and I just think, ‘oh, this is way different from when I started school!’ A couple months ago, we started up (in person) again. The only thing that’s difficult is always wearing a mask, especially when the kids say, ‘teacher, race me!’ You’re running back and forth, breathing so hard wearing a mask when they don’t have a mask. It’s difficult, but it’s very fun, too. I love all of my kids.”
For John, he knew he wanted to study and have a career in the creative side of advertising. John transferred to San José State in advertising, and he was able to get an internship with City College’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Daniel Garza. When John was attending City College, he didn’t see much in the way of marketing. Yet, after John went to State, Garza was hired, and John started noticing the effects of good advertising.
“SJCC Brilliant wasn’t really a thing,” John recollects. “And I never knew they were giving away free books. Daniel would ask me to go to these classes and take pictures of the whole class getting free books. After taking pictures, I told everyone in the class, ‘you guys are lucky, because I don’t think I had this when I was going here.’ It was so cool City was doing this. I remember just being impacted by seeing all of that happen. They are doing a lot more than before.”
John received his bachelor’s from SJSU in December 2020 and is working with a small local marketing firm to gain experience to work with bigger firms as an advertising creative. His dream job would be doing post-production or graphics design work with ESPN or the NFL.
While at City College, both children remember enduring teachers telling them they look like their mom or remember them from the CDC preschool. “It was just so weird,” relates Vanessa, “because all the students in the class would be looking at me thinking, ‘oh, she has advantage,’ or something like that. And I’d tell them, ‘oh no, they just know my mom. She just works in Admissions, so she has to talk to all these teachers.’ It was even worse in Early Childhood classes where they really knew my mom.”
“For me, it was Terri Oberg,” says John, “the fitness professor. She was so cool. She knew my mom for years and she basically knew me from when I was younger, too. So, I feel we had that connection from seeing me in her class. She would say, ‘I remember you from when you were a child.’”
Teresa laughs. “It’s been a wonderful experience being at City College. I love working with the students, faculty, and staff. This is been my home. My home away from home. I like to say I grew up here. I started at 21 years old, being single, young, so naïve, and look at me now! I’ve been here 31 years and have two children who graduated from here. When I am ready to retire, I have no idea what I’m going to do, because the college is possibly my third job anywhere! I’ve learned a lot. I continue to learn, and I have a lot of people, friends, and colleagues who have helped me along the way.”