Voting for the first time with humanity in her heart

After a citizenship quest that spanned more than a decade, Altamirano-Cancino casts her first ballot in 2020 election

Alice Scott


Dave Winter

Señora Telvi Altamirano Cancino, a.k.a Señora A, teaches her fourth-period Spanish class, which on this Monday had three in-person students and the rest on Zoom. Altamirano started the class by apologizing for the fact that her students could not see her because her camera was not working, but she stayed upbeat, encouraging her students to speak up and take risks throughout the class.

Alice Scott, staff reporter

Telvi Altamirano-Cancino, or ‘Sra. A’  as her McCallum students know her, was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and at age 10 immigrated to the United States. The path to citizenship took more than a decade and this past November she reached a symbolic milestone: exercising her right to vote.

“In my head, I grew up here,” Altamirano-Cancino said. “I listened to the same music as everyone else, I go to school, and I’m reading the same things and I’m watching the same things, but I didn’t have the status to get a job, or get a driver’s license at 16, so I think for me, being able to vote represents that moment of finally being able to do what everyone who has grown up in this country is able to do.” 

For me, being able to vote represents that moment of finally being able to do what everyone who has grown up in this country is able to do.

— Spanish teacher Telvi Altamirano-Cancino

The ability to elect officials who represent the views you hold is at the root of democracy and one of the most important civic duties of citizens of the United States.

“Voting is just, is you determining what is going to happen to your country and what is going to happen to your life,” said sophomore Helena Finos, a Spanish student of Altamirano’s.  “Sra. A, absolutely deserves a voice in the country that she lives in.”

Gaining the right to vote gave Sra. A the opportunity to voice her opinions on issues she finds important.

“There are so many things wrong with our immigration system and I am hoping that we can elect a leader who will see that and solve those issues,” she said.

Her own experience as an immigrant factored into her vote, but so did the values she holds and her hopes of a better future.

“I think I voted with humanity in my heart,” Altamirano-Cancino said, “in hope that we see humans being treated with humanity.”

Despite the fact that a KN-95 mask that covers most of her face, Señora Altamirano’s eyes are a clear indicator that she is still smiling. Her Zoom students on Monday Nov. 16 could not see her eyes, but her three in-person students could tell from her eyes that she was smiling. She tells her virtual students that she will be writing with them in her notebook as she always does even though they cannot see her. (Dave Winter)