Why I Teach
Since 2007, FedEx has provided over $1.5M in cash and in-kind shipping in support of Teach For America’s national and regional operations, including sponsoring a summit on educational inequity, sponsoring a speaker series about race and education, and support for the Teach for America national diversity and inclusiveness program.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ishii, suggested that I transfer to another school to enroll in a program for “gifted” students. At the time, I didn’t question the idea of switching schools and agreed. As I got older, I began to understand that my teacher’s decision had changed my life trajectory.
I grew up in a low-income area of Anaheim, Calif., and my school did not offer the kind of education that my teacher believed I deserved. The new school, located a mere four blocks away in a wealthier part of town, did. Graduating from the gifted program put me on a path to attending a high-performing middle school and high school. I was lucky to have had Mrs. Ishii as a teacher – who knows where I would be today had she not intervened. Reflecting on my past, I keep thinking, why should access to a good education depend on fortune or zip code?
Our country is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but the reality today is that where children are born often determines their educational outcomes and life prospects. For our country to truly live up to what it aspires to be, education should be a right, not a privilege. All kids, regardless of their background or economic status, should have access to an excellent education. It is this belief that inspired me to join Teach For America, the nonprofit organization working to eliminate educational inequity. I want to do for my students what Mrs. Ishii did for me.
I am in my second year of teaching pre-K at Miami’s Dr. Henry W. Mack/West Little River Elementary, where 98 percent of the students are African American or Latino, and 85 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2010, only 33 percent of fourth graders were at or above grade level in reading, and only 27 percent were at or above grade level in math.
At the beginning of my first year of teaching, my students entered my classroom only knowing 20 percent of their letters and letter sounds. By the end of the school year the average class mastery for letter recognition and sound recognition was 90 percent. This school year, my students reached a 90 percent average class mastery of letter recognition and letter-sound recognition in the first four months of school! Since then, I have been teaching my students how to sound out words and have moved on to teaching kindergarten-level work.
Outside of the classroom, I have been working to launch a project called the “Parent Academy” that will create a space where parents in the community can work together to become more involved in their children’s education. Often when I’m working with these parents – before and after school, in my classroom and in their homes – I think of my own parents and what they wanted for their children.
My parents grew up in rural villages in Mexico, where access to education was very limited – my mother only went to school up to the fourth grade, and my father only finished middle school. Throughout my childhood, I witnessed my parents face difficulties making ends meet. When faced with those challenges, they emphasized to me and my siblings that education would be our way to a better life.
With the support of my family and dedicated teachers, I graduated high school with honors and was the first person in my immediate family to be accepted into college. In 2009, I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. It was a momentous achievement, both for me and my family.
Teaching has been, and continues to be, incredibly challenging and rewarding. I am inspired and driven by the belief that every child deserves an excellent education and that every child, even those growing up in poverty, can succeed when held to high expectations and given the right support, resources and opportunities. I feel honored to work with my students and their families, and I believe that working together, we can provide my kids with a transformational education – the kind that will put them on a different path in life than what their zip codes would predict.