Educator and essayist. In addition to serving as a teacher, he was a principal, inspector and superintendent of public schools. He was president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association. He worked for greater professionalism of the teaching profession and on behalf of teachers’ rights and benefits. He also contributed to reforms in Spanish instruction in the educational curriculum.
Gerardo Sellés Solá was born on March 13, 1887, in the Borinquen sector of Caguas. His parents were Julia Solá López and Cándido Sellés López. In his early childhood, he lived in San Lorenzo with his family. He began his early education under the tutelage of Narciso Varona, his godfather and a teacher at the school in that town. He later studied rural education at the Normal School at the University of Puerto Rico in 1901 and completed his studies at the age of fifteen.
He began working as a rural teacher in San Lorenzo in 1902. He also worked as a licensed teacher in the municipalities of Arecibo and Caguas from 1903 to 1905. In 1906, he returned to San Lorenzo, where he worked in the urban schools until 1912. That same year, he accepted the post of principal of a school in the capital after having earned a license as a principal. He served as an inspector of schools from 1913 to 1917 in the Isabela district and from 1917 to 1920 in the Caguas district.
From 1920 to 1924, Sellés Solá held the post of superintendent of Spanish, replacing José González Ginorio, who had become municipal commissioner of instruction in San Juan. Based on his previous experience as a schools inspector, he believed the root of the problems with Spanish instruction was in the primary grades, so he focused his efforts there. He established reforms and prepared teaching materials for grades second through eighth for this subject.
Gerardo Sellés Solá became the seventh president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association in December of 1920 and held that position until December of 1931. He was tenacious in his defense of teachers’ rights. He opposed reductions in teachers’ salaries and a proposal to make the academic year shorter. He promoted the creation of a new mutual aid fund, which was approved by the group’s Annual Assembly in 1921.
In 1926, Sellés Solá joined a committee that also included Juan José Osuna, dean of the College of Education, José C. Rosario, and Jesús María Quiñones, to work to improve professional conditions for teachers. They lobbied the legislature to resolve the problem of classification and establish a fixed method in the Department of Instruction for dealing with the situation. They also requested that professorial vacancies be filled by licensed teachers. They also proposed the creation of an extension program and continuing education (1926). In 1928, while he was once again president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association, the new Pensions Law was approved, after the Pension Fund was depleted.
After retiring from the presidency of the Association, Sellés Solá continued working with the university faculty, which he had joined in 1926. He also completed his bachelor of arts degree in 1929 and his masters in Hispanic Studies in 1930 at the University. From 1931 to 1946, he worked as a professor in the School of Education at the University of Puerto Rico. He participated in the process of reorganizing the colleges so they could meet the requirements of the new law for certifying teachers. In 1933 and 1935, he was the interim dean of the School of Education.
Sellés Solá contributed articles on educational topics to various periodicals in Puerto Rico, among which were the newspaper, El Mundo, and the Puerto Rico Teachers Association magazine. In 1943, he published the book Lecturas históricas de la educación en Puerto Rico, with the advice of Juan José Osuna.
He died on January, 2, 1946. The library at the School of Education at the University of Puerto Rico is named for him, as are various public schools in Puerto Rico, including an elementary school in San Lorenzo and a middle school in Caguas.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: February 23, 2010.
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