Spotlight Series: Dr. Rafael Castillo
June 20, 2019
As one of the founding faculty members of Palo Alto College, it's no surprise that Dr. Rafael Castillo, professor of English and humanities, has built quite a reputation for himself over the last 30 years. From sitting on editorial boards and having his work appear in various publications, to accumulating many awards and achievements, Castillo has quite the résumé.
In August, Castillo will be able to add another notch onto his belt of accomplishments. "Chicano Literature", a bibliographical essay written by Castillo, will be published by Oxford University Press, the world's largest university press which publishes high-quality academic and educational resources across the globe.
"It's about the origins of Chicano literature which goes back to the 1960s and how the literature evolved from the United Farm Workers movement," said Castillo.
Castillo worked with Oxford prior to this recent essay as an editorial reader back in 2007, which led to his most recent assignment. This time around, the workload was much more than the previous, requiring 150 citations – the equivalent of two Ph.D. dissertations, according to Castillo.
"I thought, 'Oxford, wow, that's the big time,'" said Castillo. "It's a lot of work. I finished my draft in three months and sent it in, but didn't hear anything for about six months so I figured they canned it.
"They finally contacted me shorty after and apologized for the delay. They told me my copy was clean and I only had a few citation mistakes, a colon misplaced, silly little things."
Although Castillo has many recognitions to be proud of, he rarely boasts about his accomplishments with his students. It isn't unusual for some of his students to approach him after finding one of his articles online or his personal Wikipedia page.
"When I teach my first class of the semester, I tell my students I'm only going to talk about myself one time," said Castillo. "It's about them, not me. It's about learning the material."
While physical awards are nice – and Castillo has many scattered across the walls of his office – he says one of the most rewarding experiences has been the success of his former students. Many have reached out to Castillo for advice or to edit some of their work. Some have even ventured into writing their own books.
"I've had students come in and say 'Dr. Castillo, I'm thinking of writing a book, but I'm not sure if it's good or not,'" said Castillo. "I tell them to stop thinking and start doing. They're two separate things; I tell them to come back when they have something. Now I've been to their book signings."
Castillo's love for writing and the challenge that came with working with such a prestigious publication like Oxford is what pushed him to pursue writing the "Chicano Literature" essay. That same love and passion runs deep and bleeds into his classes at Palo Alto College. The challenge of educating the students at the College is one of many reasons he's stuck around all these years, turning down job offers in the past.
"I believe there is so much untapped potential in our students and it's a wonderful thing when we can harness it and see the students grow," said Castillo. "If I were to take a job at a four-year university... some of those students have already tapped into their potential and then the job becomes too easy."
During his tenure at the College, Castillo has seen it grow from its early embryonic beginnings.
Watching the college grow from 10 students in a class to 30 was "really magnanimous" to Castillo because it proved that the South Side had the potential to grow. Classes were tiny when the College opened in 1985, and he's seen students come and go over the years. He says some of his former students have even come back and now work at the College.
"It really makes me feel proud that you get a chance to see your skills being developed in others and they become true to themselves," said Castillo. "If you're a good teacher, not only will these students fly, but hopefully they surpass you. My love is writing and I've tried to imbue this love into my students."