Meet Tom Acker, a Colorado Mesa University professor
Editor’s note: Who We Are features men and women who embody the unique spirit of the Grand Valley. E-mail nominations to email@example.com.
Tom Acker, a Grand Junction resident, has helped immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries since the 1970s.
His passion for teaching started when he took a trip during high school to study abroad in Spain. Then he taught English as a second language.
“I’ve been locked into Spanish ever since,” Acker said.
Originally from the northeastern United States, he moved to western Colorado and began teaching Spanish at Colorado Mesa University in 1999. He not only teaches the language, but he also instructs his students about foreign cultures. For example, he teaches his students how to understand relationships between Mexico and the United States through trade agreements and “how they impact the communities we live in.”
“I encourage my students to overcome learning other languages by understanding the literary texts and value of studying a foreign language,” Acker added.
While residing in Pennsylvania, Acker worked with a federally funded agency to help farmers interact with agriculture workers. That sparked his interested in the United State’s immigration-rights movement. He currently acts as a proponent for immigrants on Colorado’s Immigrant Rights Coalition.
According to Acker, he was also one of the local voices to encourage opening Grand Junction’s Dual Immersion Academy.
“It’s a privilege to share the issues and inform students,” Acker said.
Mayela Vallejos-Ramirez, a professor of Spanish alongside Acker at Colorado Mesa University, said Acker truly cares about teaching Spanish as a language.
“He tries to break down boundaries between different cultures and languages,” she said.
Acker is currently on a sabbatical while he pursues an American Translators Associate certificate, which he hopes to complete in May.
With more Spanish-speaking immigrants coming to the U.S., he sees a need for more translators, especially if the embargo between U.S. and Cuba ends for good.
“I’m optimistic of it happening,” Acker said.
Acker received a doctorate in Spanish from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.
He has been married to his wife, Dianna, for more than three decades. They have three sons — Stanislaus, Henry and Donte.
When he isn’t advocating for immigrant rights or teaching, he enjoys watching movies.
“I consume all my movies through Netflix,” he said.
Acker hopes to bring an independent, foreign film festival to the Grand Valley in the future.
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