For more than a decade, Jose Sevilla spent his nights cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming classrooms and doing small maintenance jobs as night custodian at Santa Rosa's Luther Burbank Elementary School.
He worked nights cleaning and spent his days studying and caring for his growing family, but he always had a vision.
It would take years of adjusting his plans and getting too little sleep — with his job as janitor one of life's only constants — but in the fall of 2009, Sevilla showed up at Luther Burbank not for his 3 p.m. janitorial shift, but for the 8a.m. school bell.
Sevilla had become a student teacher.
Today, he is lead teacher at the Spanish-language dual-immersion Cesar Chavez Language Academy in Santa Rosa, with a classroom full of kindergarten students who call him "maestro" — a Spanish word for teacher
"It hasn't been easy for him, but he stuck to it," said Kris Cosca, now director of human resources at the Napa Valley Unified School District and one of Sevilla's principals during his years at Burbank.
Sevilla acknowledges the challenges he's faced. "Going to school, working full time and also taking care of a family — that was definitely another gear that I didn't know I had."
"There were times I considered, 'Maybe this is not for me because of the amount of work, maybe it's a good dream but maybe it's not meant for me.'
"But my subconscious would say 'You are here, you are doing well, don't quit.'"
Sevilla embodies life lessons for kids, Cosca said. "Resilience, perseverance, that's what we want. I'm just so proud of him.
"I just love his story," he said.
Sevilla's story is not a linear one. There have been stops and starts and disappointments, but friends and colleagues say his focus on the goal of being a teacher — while also providing for his growing family — has been laser-like.
Sevilla, 41, at times would take on a greater portion of child care duties for his daughters — who now are 19, 15, 9 and 5 — so his wife, Monica, could proceed with her education and eventually land a job as a kindergarten teacher at Mattie Washburn Elementary School in Windsor.
"When you work hard for something, when you don't have a handout, you appreciate things more," Monica Sevilla said. "He has earned everything he has and he appreciates it better than having something given to him. He really values education — it isn't something you just pay for; you have to earn your grade."
Sevilla, who moved to Sonoma County from Mexico City with his family when he was 14, struggled to master English while in high school. He graduated from Healdsburg High in 1990, but felt he was behind where he needed to be academically.
"I did have my diploma, but all of those (Advanced Placement) classes you need to take? I didn't take those because I was taking the basics because of my limited understanding of English," he said.
Sevilla enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College and took a job at Round Table Pizza, starting a pattern of juggling one, two or three jobs with college course work and caring for an expanding family.
On some days, Monica would come home at 2:10 p.m. and Jose would leave for his 3 p.m. shift. And he never complained, always stayed the course.