mr guzman with american flag

It took 17 years, thousands of dollars, endless paperwork, and untold endurance, but it finally happened: On January 26, 2023, South Athens Elementary teacher Alejandro Guzman became a citizen of the United States of America.

“It was worth the wait,” said Guzman. “I wasn’t sure during the process I would ever get to the end, but it was worth the wait.”

  • Guzman’s journey began two decades ago in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. Despite holding a college degree in chemical engineering, he was unable to find a job using his skills and knowledge.

    “One day my mom said, ‘Hey, they’re looking for bilingual teachers in Texas.’ She had seen an ad on TV,” said Guzman. A couple weeks later, he spotted a similar ad in a newspaper.

    Following the only lead he had, Guzman attended an information meeting and in 2004 enrolled in a program to become an elementary teacher in Texas. For a year and a half, he attended classes every Saturday; learned how to teach math, science, social studies or reading to elementary students; studied for the exam he had to pass; and began working through the byzantine legal process. It was a time-consuming and costly undertaking.

    “After I finished the classes, I went to a job fair in Monterrey. It was crowded. … The second booth [I came to] was for Athens, and there was Dr. Sims, so helpful and friendly.. … And here I am, 17 years later.” AISD Superintendent Dr. Janie Sims was at the time the principal of Athens Intermediate School (now Central Athens Elementary).

    In the spring of 2005, Guzman signed a probationary contract with AISD. His working visa arrived the last day of September, and three days later he was teaching science to a class of fifth-graders at Athens Intermediate. He now teaches math and science at South Athens.

    “Mr. Guzman is kind,” said Gabriel Garcia, a student of Guzman’s who just finished fifth-grade. “He’s always trying to find ways to help his students.”

    “I like teaching a lot,” said Guzman. “It gives me an opportunity to help kids grow and build a better future.” 

    He knows all about the effort it can take to build a better future. Guzman’s dream has been to own his own home, something he has been unable to pursue until now.

    “The first 12 years, I was basically on year-to-year working visas. … Then I got my green card, which was a big step, but I was still so anxious.”

    Green cards last 10 years and make the citizenship process faster and easier, but Guzman’s attorney recommended he wait five years before attempting to apply for citizenship because applying any earlier would likely result in a denial.

    So he waited those five, long years, finally applying in February 2022. In December of that same year, Guzman was called in for a citizenship interview, and one month later was told to be at a swearing-in ceremony in Irving on January 26. He attended by himself in a room with about 1,000 other people.

    “I actually shed a few tears,” said Guzman. “It was a long fight, but I got there. It took me 17 years, but I got there.”

    The first thing he did after the ceremony was call his mother from the car. She wept with joy. Then he emailed Dr. Sims. “She’s been amazing,” Guzman said. “My mom keeps telling me to say hi to her.”

    “Mr. Guzman has invested many years and tremendous effort to accomplish his goal of becoming a U.S. citizen,” said Sims, “all while teaching the children of our community. I wish there were more Mr. Guzmans in the world.”