ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – Recently a South Athens Elementary teacher became a citizen of the United States of America after 17 years with the district.

Alejandro Guzman started his journey to citizenship in 2004 when he enrolled in a program to become a bilingual elementary school teacher in Texas. Guzman attended classes to learn how to teach math, science and social studies for a year and a half before applying to Athens ISD.

“After I finished the classes, I went to a job fair in Monterrey. It was crowded… The second booth [I came to] was for Athens, and there was Dr. Sims, so helpful and friendly… And here I am, 17 years later,” Guzman said. Dr. Janie Sims was the principal of Athens Intermediate School at the time.

Guzman signed a probationary contract with Athens ISD in the spring of 2005 and by September he was teaching a fifth-grade science class at Athens Intermediate School.

For 12 years Guzman worked in Athens on year-to-year visas before getting his green card, which lasts for 10 years and helps make the process of becoming a citizen faster. Guzman’s attorney recommended that he wait five years before applying to become a citizen to avoid a denial.

In February 2022, Guzman finally applied and he had his citizenship interview in December. On Jan. 26, he was sworn in at a ceremony in a courtroom in Irving, along with 1,000 other people.

“I actually shed a few tears,” said Guzman. “It was a long fight, but I got there. It took me 17 years, but I got there.”

Now superintendent Sims, who met Guzman at that Monterrey job fair all those years ago, said this about Guzman:

“Mr. Guzman has invested many years and tremendous effort to accomplish his goal of becoming a U.S. citizen, all while teaching the children of our community,” Sims said. “I wish there were more Mr. Guzmans in the world.”