Deep in outer in space, there was a planet populated by intelligent people who spent all their time reading. This planet was a happy place where everyone loved learning. One terrible day, the Evil Brainmonster invaded their peaceful planet and destroyed all the libraries, schools, and museums. The Evil Brainmonster stole everyone’s brain, rendering them zombies. Only one boy managed to escape the fate of the Evil Brainmonster. He traveled by spaceship to Earth, where he landed vowing to fight to conquer illiteracy wherever he could.
He is El Super Lector, which translates to “The Super Reader” in English, and he has been spotted in elementary schools all over Dallas.
For many students at Mount Auburn Elementary, he is one of the best new superheroes to come on the scene. With guitar in hand, the mystery man drops in to sing songs, tell stories, and read poems about the power of learning and the dangers of illiteracy. The students sing along and, when he leaves, they promise to help fight off the Evil Brainmonster by reading every day.
When this superhero is not out doing battle against illiteracy, he carefully maintains his disguise as Mount Auburn Elementary’s much loved first-grade teacher Adrian Vega. Vega is now in his second year of teaching, after having recently completed the alternative certification program for elementary education. He never planned to be a teacher, and traveled a very diverse path before choosing education as his profession.
“I graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in Journalism in 1993,” the superhero/teacher explains. “After that I participated for three years in a Peace and Justice program, which is similar to the Peace Corps.”
In this program, Vega worked as a journalist in Lima, Peru. It was during this time that he became interested in helping the Hispanic community. He originally thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a Methodist minister. He earned a full scholarship to the Perkins School of Theology at SMU. However, after only one semester at SMU, he realized that the seminary was not for him.
He was waiting tables in Lakewood, pondering what to do next, when a customer told him about the Alternative Certification program offered through DISD. Adrian was intrigued and enrolled in the program.
“My first year I taught second grade at Martin Weiss Elementary in Oak Cliff. All of my students were bilingual, and they were having a lot of trouble with English,” explains Vega. “I started thinking of ways I could motivate them to become excited about reading.”
It was then that Vega decided to create a “superhero.”
“El Super Lector is a bilingual, inner-city, Latino super hero,” Vega explains. “The majority of my students were Hispanic, so this was very intentional. I wanted to give them someone to look up to who was just like them.”
Vega began by writing “The Adventures of El Super Lector.” He read the story to his class to prepare them for a visit by the superhero. El Super Lector arrived wearing a yellow cape and dark-rimmed glasses. He performed original songs and poems, reinforcing the message to read as much as possible to fight against the Evil Brainmonster’s plan to spread illiteracy. Students responded to the creative approach and other teachers began requesting that the superhero visit their classrooms.
Edward Hernandez, who teaches kindergarten at Mount Auburn Elementary, says that El Super Lector has visited his classroom many times. “The children are constantly asking about him,” explains Hernandez. “They are very intrigued by this character.”
In December, Hernandez and Vega co-produced a holiday play entitled, “El Super Lector, Santa and Reading,” which featured their students as the cast.
“The parents loved it,” says Hernandez. “They were amazed that the children had memorized so many lines.”
In addition to the original story and the holiday play, Vega has written and illustrated two other stories that highlight multiculturalism, and celebrate religious and ethnic differences. He is attempting to get his work published.
“The writing, music and drawing began as an outlet for my creativity and a way to inspire my students,” Vega explains. “If my path becomes writing books and music, that’s great. However, I love teaching, and I’ll be happy doing that as well.”
Vega feels that through El Super Lector he has been able to positively impact the Hispanic community. “I do this to give back to the community in a very intentional way,” he says. And, it’s fun. “Many times during a performance I say to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this!’”
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