Skip to main content

Franklyn Telles: Native Advocate, Scientist, Educator

Approximately a third of International House Residents come from across the United States. This is by design, as the founders envisioned I-House as a vehicle not only for more American students to learn about other global cultures, but also for international students to learn about the diversity and complexity of the American experience, including native perspectives. One Resident who has been raising awareness and making the most of his time here is Franklyn Tranquilino Telles, a high school Earth Sciences teacher of Apache and El Salvadoran descent who came to us through his studies with the American Museum of Natural History. For the past 20 years, Franklyn, or “Franky” as he is known, has been active with the Chiricahua Apache Nation (the tribe of the American legend Geronimo) in their efforts to gain recognition as a federally recognized American Indian Tribe. Franky has been living at I-House for almost three years, with his wife, Anastasia, and their two young children (with another on the way), who have been bright fixtures at many of the celebrations and events at the House. Despite his busy schedule, Franky has been integral to shaping the cultural life of the community through various Fellowship and leadership opportunities he has received from the House. We caught up with Franky recently to talk about his I-House experience. Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to live at I-House? I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and through my father, I am a native of the Apache Chihene Nde in New Mexico. I live at I-House with my wife, Anastasia, whom I had met during a study abroad program in Russia, and our two daughters, Elizabeth and Milana. I was given the opportunity to apply to International House by the American Museum of Natural History. A prior resident gave me a tour of I-House and I was thrilled to learn about the various events, resident support services, and the endless network of international possibilities. I was also impressed by the self-sustaining nature of the House, which includes amenities such as a gym, fitness center, laundry rooms, mail services, study rooms, theatre/ballroom, dining hall, recreation center, and a pub. Without hesitation, I applied for a residency at I-House and am always looking for ways to participate. Tell us about your work and studies. I am an Earth Science teacher at a public high school in Harlem, through an affiliation with the American Museum of Natural History. Last year, I received my MA degree in Teaching (Earth Science) from the museum, and now I work as an early-career teacher in New York State. The high school I work at is classified as a Title I school, dedicated to serving a high-needs community. I work with students from disenfranchised, underserved, economically-challenged, and multilingual populations, and strive to make my lessons engaging. Outside of my day to day work in the classroom, I also do advocacy to raise awareness for my tribe, which is one of the hundreds of unrecognized nations of the United States. We are petitioning with the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) for federal recognition in our ancestral land of New Mexico. What are your favorite things about living at I-House? My favorite thing is the international atmosphere in regards to events and activities, especially those that bring together residents. I like the fact that these are often not limited to single residents, but very welcoming to those with families. Over the past several years, the I-House Family Group has been an important part of my family’s life here. My wife, Anastasia, and our two daughters, Elizabeth and Milana, enjoy the events and activities set up by other residents. During our second year at the House, we had the privilege of hosting the Family Group for Halloween, holiday get-togethers, and playdates for the children of the House. I also served as one of the Cultural Fellows during my second year, and have signed up again to serve as a Resident Fellow and Communications Fellow to help plan events and document life at I-House this year. These opportunities have been helping to shape my career and self as a global citizen. What’s next for you? What do you want to accomplish in your career? I will continue to serve my students in Harlem, and I aspire to move forward with my scientific investigations in the Arctic. I would like to involve high school and undergraduate students in my work. My hope is that my academic networks in the United States and in Russia will lead to scientific collaboration between our countries. How has being a part of this community helped you progress? My experience of being part of this community has helped me grow personally and professionally. I love learning about other cultures and I want to raise my children to have an open mind. I-House is the perfect place for that. Personally, I have grown as a global citizen. Professionally, I have grown my skills in organizing events and bringing together residents, and growing my global network of friends. Finally–do you have any advice for people who are considering whether they should apply to live at I-House? If you are interested in learning about other cultures, making lifelong friends, and growing as global citizens, then I highly recommend living at I-House. I-House provides the resources and opportunities for those curious about other cultures and growing as a global citizen. November is National Native American Heritage Month To learn more about the Chiricahua Apache Nation, click here.