As a bilingual elementary student Dr. Leonard Basurto quickly noticed that the English he used at home –or on the streets as a shoeshine boy—was not the one used by his school teachers. As a result, Dr. Basurto struggled with academic English throughout elementary and junior high. Fate intervened in 1958 when Dr. Basurto became a student of Adalberto Guerrero at Pueblo High School, which redirected the course of his life.
In 1962, Dr. Basurto graduated from Pueblo High School and attended University of Arizona where he earned a degree in Secondary Education. Dr. Basurto also received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force and ultimately rose to the rank of Captain. During this time Dr. Basurto married his college sweetheart Amelia and deployed to Panama. Dr. Basurto went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management and later decided to become a bilingual education teacher in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). He also completed a Master’s Degree in elementary education and continued his military service in the Arizona Air National Guard and retired as Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1981 Dr. Basurto completed a Ph.D. in educational administration with a special emphasis on bilingual education. He became the principal of Roberts Elementary School and later became the Director of TUSD’s Bilingual Education and Hispanic Studies Department. Over the course of his twelve-year tenure Dr. Basurto implemented a series of initiatives including Project META and Exito en Progreso among others.
Today Dr. Basurto is an active community leader with the Pima County Interfaith Council and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards from the community and the military.