The lives of Salinas third-grader, Jose and his inspirational teacher, Oscar Ramos  

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East of Salinas Highlights Local Student and Teacher

East of Salinas

Photo courtesy of PBS

The City of Salinas and Monterey County are on a worldwide stage this week as "East of Salinas" airs on PBS.

“East of Salinas,” a PBS documentary, is available to watch online at http://www.pbs.org/video/2365622662/.

The film will be broadcast on KQED for the Central Coast and San Francisco Bay Area at 10 p.m. on January 18, 2016.

The project started when award-winning filmmaker Laura Pacheco read a New York Times article in 2011. The story was about Oscar Ramos, a third grade teacher in Salinas, who came from a migrant family. Ramos teaches in Sherwood Elementary School, where half of his class is made up of children of migrant farmworker families. Often these children have to move several times a year to follow the harvest and have to wake up at 3 am to go to a babysitter, before school, so their parents can go work in the fields.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it," said Pacheco. "He knows what's missing in these kids' lives," said Pacheco about Ramos.

There are more than 2 million farmworkers in the U.S., and their median wage is a little over $9 an hour. Immigrant farmworkers (approximately 75 percent are coming from Mexico) often leave their home countries to seek a better life for their families. However, the average migrant child may attend as many as three different schools in one year, often making it difficult for a child to advance to the next grade level.

Pacheco was so intrigued by these figures that she wrote Mr. Ramos and told him she'd like to meet and talk to him about making a film. Together with co-director Jackie Mow, they decided to focus on one family, and one boy in particular, José Anzaldo.

"We decided to follow one to get an intimate look of what a migrant family is like in America," says Pacheco.

After three years of filming, their film, "East of Salinas" premiered on PBS' Independent Lens on Monday, December 28th.

Pacheco hopes viewers take away certain things from watching the film such as what education is like for farmworker children and where our food is coming from.

“It’s a heartwarming story about a young boy who really wants to succeed,” said Pacheco. “I hope people will fall in love with José and say, ‘Of course he should be given a chance.’ He wants to become an engineer and wants to give back to his community and I think the American Dream is to help him do that.”

Today, José is 12 and a seventh grader at Washington Middle School. He has a high aptitude for math.

Early in the film, it centers on Ramos’ story. He grew up in a farm labor camp outside of Hollister, attended local schools and eventually graduated from UC Berkeley. His goal was to become a teacher. Ramos has taught third grade at Sherwood for 19 years.