John Basor

Watsonville/Aptos Adult School


On January 3, 1963, a young man of 14 years stood on the runway with his parents and three sisters at San Francisco Airport. Tonight that same man stands with his class of Citizenship students at Watsonville/Aptos Adult School, where he has taught since 1975. Looking back over those 40 years, John Basor has much to be thankful for, and he attributes his accomplishment of many life goals to his family and to his participation, in various ways, in Adult Education for most of those four decades.

Arriving exhausted from Croatia in the former Yugoslavia, John's family had made their journey through Rome, Madrid, Portugal, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, before reaching Watsonville, where he settled with his uncles and aunts who had sponsored the family. Just three days after their arrival John's aunt enrolled the children in elementary, junior high and high school, and that same night his uncle drove them into town to "night school," where John continued to study for the next 4 years. At first, his focus was on learning English. When he graduated junior high and entered high school in 1964, John added academic courses to his program at the adult school, fulfilling high school requirements in courses such as Government, US History, Developmental Reading, language (German!), and of course, more ESL.

John says his "biggest challenge meeting my goals was becoming independent and self-sufficient. I had to depend on my uncle to take me to school at night, and overcame each challenge one by one." Because of his perseverance and the support he received at Adult Ed, John graduated from Watsonville High School in three years and immediately enrolled in Cabrillo College, where he earned his AA degree in languages: Spanish and Russian in 1969. At the same time he continued as an Adult Ed student and served as student representative on the School Council, earning the esteem and friendship of then–principal, Les Oakes. From the first days after his arrival in Watsonville, John also worked on his uncles' apple farm doing every kind of manual labor, contributing to the support of his family and in gratitude to his uncles and aunts, who had sponsored them with much moral and financial support.

Following his graduation from Cabrillo College, John enrolled at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and in 1971 earned his BA in Linguistics and Foreign Languages: Spanish and Russian. In order to continue to contribute to the family and to finance his own education, John took a job as a substitute custodian for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, once again finding himself among the many friends he had made at Adult Ed, among them some of his former teachers. In the summers John worked full time in maintenance for the district, a job he held for about three years until he transferred to San Jose State hoping to enter the teacher credential program. So inspired had he been by his instructors, he had determined to become a teacher himself.

At San Jose State John took courses in Spanish and Education and earned his Adult Ed credential. He was unwilling, however, to languish on the waiting list for a place in the very full classes so he transferred to the University of California Santa Cruz and began his studies in the K–12 Teacher Education program. Learning that John had returned to the Pajaro Valley, his friend Les Oakes hired him immediately for his first teaching Job, ESL instructor for night school. John had come full circle in the 12 years he had been in the United States, and now was "on the other side" of that very same desk before which he had sat for the first time just three days after arriving from his native Croatia.

Still working part time during the days in the maintenance department of the school district, John earned his K–12 credential from UC Santa Cruz in 1978. Upon graduation he began his career as full time instructor at Watsonville/Aptos Adult Ed, teaching ESL, Citizenship, Spanish GED, ABE and ASE through the years. To this day he is a powerful influence, support and inspiration to the hundreds of immigrants he teaches and supports as they work to improve their lives.

In the 1980s John began teaching ESL classes also at Cabrillo College, where he had earned his AA some 12 years earlier. During this time, he also returned to San Jose State and completed his Master's Degree in Education in 1989, choosing to research the history of Adult Education in Watsonville as his Master's project and exam. In 1998, John began teaching ESL at Watsonville High School during the days, continuing to teach his ESL and Citizenship classes at night at Adult Ed.

Professionally, John is a long–time member of CCAE, having joined when the organization first started. He also participates actively in CATESOL and TESOL. He is a committed member of the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, having hosted Union meetings at his home where he has served members his famous sausage for many years. He is a founding member of Watsonville's Slavic American Cultural Organization, established in 1979, and contributes his time and talents to the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and the Pajaro Valley Agricultural History Project. Today John speaks three languages fluently: English, Croatian and Spanish; and he is comfortable communicating in Russian and German.

Adult Ed has made another very important impact on John's life because it was here that he courted his wife Jelka, also a former Adult Ed student, whom he had met in the village in Croatia when he returned for a family visit. They have two children, Lucy, who is 12 and Ivo, 9. John's mother Lucy, who lives with the family, will turn 90 in March of 2004. In addition, John and Jelka are the owners of Adriatic Travel Agency. In 1975 he completed the K–12 credential program and earned his realtor's license in 1980. John manifests the Adult Education commitment to lifelong learning!

Clearly, a constant thread in the fabric of John's journey from Croatia to the present has been Adult Education. The Adult School has been an integral part of his life, supporting him with education, friendship, mentoring, wonderful memories and a rewarding career for 40 years! "When we first arrived," says John, "we felt more at home in Adult Education because there were other immigrants in classes and we were treated like adults. There are are more flexible opportunities to study English and other subjects through Adult Education." It's impossible to distinguish in which direction the respect, gratitude and friendship extend deeper: from Adult Education to John, or from John to Adult Education.

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