My Why - Gustavo Atempa, Spanish Interpreter/Translator

October 24, 2023

Topic: My Why


Since Gustavo Atempa was in the second grade, he’s been interpreting. English to Spanish and Spanish to English. Starting with his parents who immigrated from Mexico, Gustavo helped them fill out government and medical forms. He didn’t want them to struggle with complicated questionnaires and hoped to relieve their stress of not fully comprehending a new language. The relief on their faces when Gustavo translated is the same expression of relief he sees on parents’ faces in our district when he helps interpret IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 plans. (A 504 Plan is developed to ensure that a child with a disability receives accommodations in school.)  “When I explain things in their native language, parents better understand what’s going on, ask more questions and are able to assist their children in an improved way,” says Gustavo. “There is no such thing as a bad question, even if it’s a small thing,” he adds. 

After graduating Waukegan High School, Gustavo earned a certificate to become a pharmacy technician at the College of Lake County. He worked in that field for five years until COVID hit. At that time, his wife, who was a nurse at London Middle School, encouraged him to apply for a new position at the district: Spanish Interpreter/Translator.  “It’s been a rewarding three years,” says Gustavo. “I like to hear the accomplishments of students. I enjoy being part of the solution and helping the Hispanic community,” he adds. 

Outside of work Gustavo collects vinyl records and is a great cook. His best dish is chiles rellenos. He also spends his free time doing calligraphy, drawing and painting, with some of his artwork showcased in local galleries. He likes to spend time with his family, including his 6-year-old flat coated retriever. This old soul sees beauty in lots of things. And he carries himself  with understanding and grace for others.