Probably known to most White Plains residents as “Mr. Polanco,” since that is what students in his English classes at White Plains High School call him, Dennis Polanco is in fact much more than a teacher. He is a father, musician, and community leader who has great insights into our city.
Born to Dominican parents in New York City, Polanco spent years teaching and living in the Bronx before coming to White Plains over fifteen years ago. Though a classified ad brought him here, he was instantly attracted by the diversity and emphasis on education. He is a spokesperson for the Ferris Avenue neighborhood, and engaged with civic life on many levels. As a bridge between English- and Spanish-speaking people, Polanco is a vital asset for White Plains as a whole. He speaks frankly about the way language, class, appearance, and expectations can intersect in schools and neighborhoods to create problems. However, Polanco is firmly focused on solutions, and has seemingly boundless energy for participating in and supporting all kinds of causes.
He is also a prolific guitarist, singer, and songwriter who blends his personal and professional pursuits through the classes he teaches. After you're done listening to these interviews, you can check out his music on his website.
Librarian Mariel Perez joined us for both interviews, and took the lead during the Spanish interview.
English Oral History:
Spanish Oral History: