The Power of Words


As I begin to prepare for the 2012 – 2013 school year, I sit and reflect upon the previous year as I have for the last ten years, and recall the conversation I have every year with my class on the first day of school and what stands out is the “Power of Words.”  I explain to them how words can discourage or encourage individuals.  Words can cause you to have friends or become a bully.  Words can help you make your dreams come true or they can also crush your dreams.  At the end of the conversation with my class, I offer this advice: “Be careful of what you say or write; because if someone hears or reads your thoughts you cannot take it back.

As I stated in my bio, when I speak to my students I use past experiences to provide my students with real life scenarios.  For example, I tell my students how the “power of words” almost prevented me from pursing higher education.

It was midyear of my senior year when the high school counselor called me into her office.  She wanted to know what my intentions were after graduation.  I explained to her that I wanted to continue my education at the college/university level and possibly pursue a career in forestry.  Without hesitation she looked at me and stated, “You don’t have the grades!”  I was devastated by her words, although I had a strong “C” average, and recall leaving her office thinking one day I hope I can be in a position to offer words of encouragement to students.  However, as my senior year came to an end her words continued to haunt me, and I began to believe her words, which prompted me to seek employment with a local copper mine with her words embedded that I didn’t have the grades to pursue a college degree.  During my twenty year copper mining career, I mastered the skills of a hard rock miner, heavy equipment mechanic, and driller.

I continue talking to my students, and explained how a depressed copper market forced the closure of the mine and the loss of my employment, which allowed me to pursue my dream of obtaining a college degree. However, before being allowed to enroll at our local junior college, I had to take the placement exam.  As a result of being out of school for 20 years, I did not score very well and the college counselor explained that I would start with remedial classes.  Instantly my high school counselor’s words, “You don’t have the grades!” flooded my thoughts.

Fortunately, during my junior college and university years, I had professors who offered the opposite of my high school counselor and offered words of encouragement, which made me realize how the “power of words” if used in a positive manner can change someone’s confidence or outlook/outcome on life.

As a result of my various professors’ “power of words”, I too offer my students positive words and encouragement, which I like to call Academic Cheerleading.  Just like the great athletes who rally the crowd to cheer, I rally my students to cheer for each other, somewhat controlled chaos, and they begin to understand the power of positive words and the impact it can have on their lives.

 Individuals who have read about my past ask if I harbor ill feelings toward my high school counselor and my response is, “No, because for the last ten years I have been in a position to offer encouraging words to students as I had hoped to as I left my counselor’s office.”

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words I refuse to let them hurt me.


Manuel Chavez

Manuel Chavez

San Manuel, AZ

My name is Manuel Michael Chavez Jr. My greatest contribution to education is being able to relate my 20 years of work experience to my students, which I obtained while working for Magma/BHP Copper, one of the largest underground copper mines in the world. My intentions had been to work for Magma Copper Company for the summer and return to school the following fall to pursue my dream of becoming an educator. Twenty years later, I was still employed with Magma Copper and had held various underground mining positions with the last position being a heavy equipment mechanic. In 1999, the mine announced complete closure and I had been forced and given a second opportunity to pursue my dream. What a bittersweet life-changing event in my life. I obtained my Bachelor’s of Science degree in education from NAU and have been teaching for the Mammoth-San Manuel Unified School District in Southwest Arizona for nine years and am pursuing National Board Certification. In 2009, I was selected as an Ambassador for Excellence for the Arizona Educational Foundation and currently sit on the Board of Directors for Sun Life Family Health Care Clinics and the WestEd organization. It is my belief that by intertwining my classroom lessons with my own life experiences and providing my students real world life scenarios, students become engaged in the lessons and develop a desire to learn.

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