I first wrote this in December 2003, I have gone back and re-written several times, never really feeling as if my words are able to truly capture the essence of this great individual, this man, who I consider one of my best mentors while in college. I would sit in his office and we would talk often for hours and hours in both English and Spanish about anything, school, politics, family, culture. I recall him saying to me once, ‘You belong in a University like Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, you are too advanced for this setting.’ When I first met this man, I had felt relieved at what I had been preaching for years about education and educational teaching reform, that someone with a Doctorate could officially back up my theory up in a professional scholarly format. Let me introduce you to one of the greatest teachers I have ever met.
Professor creates legacy with multiple intelligences program.
By Gabriel Cruz
An older man with broad shoulders wearing blue denim jeans, tennis shoes, and a polo shirt sat down in a classroom filled with people of a younger generation. He gives off the impression that he is a student himself, but then you notice his long silver mustache, slicked back salt and pepper hair and deep dark powerful eyes of an eagle. You get the sentiment that you are in the presence of an aristocrat, yet he is very humble, because of the commanding presence he displays.On Nov. 21, 2003, the same man, René Díaz-Lefebvre of the Glendale Community College psychology department was awarded the “Faculty of the Year” award by the Arizona Association of Chicanos of Higher Education in Tucson at the Pima Community College West Campus.“Pima is a special place to me. I had returned home, and the feeling was surreal,” said Díaz-Lefebvre.
As the first student ever to be enrolled at Pima back when it was still an airport hangar, one would think he was creating a legacy, but his family saga in Tucson goes even further back in time. His great grandfather Jose Antonio Comanduran was one of the first commandants of the Tucson Presidio in the 1700s. His great great uncle was Sabino Otero. Sabino Canyon, a scenic area in Tucson, and Sabino High school area named after him. This is just a small line of a dignified bloodline that Díaz-Lefebvre comes from. People had doubts about Díaz-Lefebvre early on though.
At the age of seven, several of his instructors visited his home and told his mother he was incompetent at learning the material presented to him and would never amount to much, but his mother told him, “Mijo, yo se que tú eres la más inteligente persona en el universo,” which translates in English to, “Son, I know you are the most intelligent person in the universe.” Many years later, after falling asleep in the Library of Harvard University, Díaz-Lefebvre awoke in tears after having a lucid dream about his mother visiting him, and reminding him how much she believed in him, and how much he really did belong at Harvard just like anyone else.
In 1983, Díaz-Lefebvre became captivated with the examination of Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligence Theory. Gardner argued that “intelligence is not some static reality fixed at birth and measured by testing and that contrary to traditional teaching, that one’s intelligence was actually comprised of eight or more intelligences. Utilizing the methods, students get out of their comfort zones and explore several ways of learning.”
Eleven years later, as Díaz-Lefebvre felt that too many students were falling through the cracks of education; he decided to introduce the Multiple Intelligence/Learning for understand program (MI/LfU) at Glendale Community College as an experiment. He knew all the students ‘were smart, but it was how smart they were,’ that captured Díaz-Lefebvre’s mind.
The eight components used in the MI/LfU are Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist, Spatial, Body-Kinesthetic, Logical-Mathematical, Musical or Linguistic.
“This program allows students to become mini-experts in their fields of study, and then they teach their friends around them,” says Díaz-Lefebvre. “Today’s learner is visual, hands on, and that is a challenge for the paper-test method. We as people come in all potentials and capabilities, and the paper test method makes students feel like one size fits all, when we all do not see life the same way. Students want choices because that is what life is about, choices.”
Díaz-Lefebvre feels that sometimes motivation for students is to memorize the answers to the questions, take the test, get it over with, yet they never understand or remember the material.
For his work on progressive ways for students to learn, he has given over 100 keynote addresses, seminars , and workshops not only nationwide, but he has also been invited to speak at international conferences around the world. Díaz-Lefebvre’s office is filled with “Who’s Who among America’s teachers” awards and was recently recognized as one of the 2000 most outstanding scholars of the 21st century. He also recently appeared on a PBS documentary.
Díaz-Lefebvre and MI/LfU Program faculty are constantly nominated as one of the ten finalists nationwide for the Bellweather Award.
“This program (MI/LfU) allows students to be accountable, yet also creative on how they go about understand the material taught to them,” says Díaz-Lefebvre
[Since I had wrote this in December of 2003, I have come to learn that Dr. Díaz-Lefebvre has won so many more prestigious awards, please read read more on Dr. Díaz-Lefebvre, please visit: http://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/utils/getdownloaditem/collection/gccarc/id/393/filename/394.doc/title/Rene%20Diaz-Lefebvre%20Biography/mapsto/showLink ]