Honoring Deisy Leija


Deisy Leija

Elementary Bilingual Teacher

Baytown, Texas

Deisy Leija, a native of San Antonio, Texas, is a first-generation graduate. Both of her parents are immigrants from Monterrey, Mexico. Growing up, her parents always instilled in her the importance of getting an education and as the oldest of five siblings, she believed it was her responsibility to set a good example.

Growing up, her family lived in the small town of Valparaiso, Florida. It was difficult going to school for her because she was limited in her English language and the community where she lived, did not understand Spanish. It was a challenge for her on a daily basis – not knowing what was going on or what was being taught in the classroom. She had to rely on a Spanish/English dictionary in order to partially understand. This experience inspired her to pursue her career in bilingual education.

Mrs. Leija achieved her dream of becoming a teacher after she graduated from Texas State University with a Bilingual Education Degree. This will be her third year of teaching 5th Grade Reading/Language Arts and Social Studies at Crockett Elementary in Baytown, Texas. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling at Lamar University and hopes to continue making a positive impact on children’s lives as a school counselor.

Why do you teach?

Having to learn the English language was a struggle for me and living in a community that did not know Spanish, made it very difficult to learn the new language. I teach because I want to be the teacher that facilitates learning for my students – especially for my English Language Learners. I find teaching to be very rewarding when I see kids progressing academically. I teach to inspire, encourage and motivate my students so that they too can be successful in their future endeavors.

What do you love about teaching?

The thing I love the most about teaching is seeing my students grow academically. I love seeing how excited they get when we are learning about a topic that interests them. Teaching is something I look forward to on a daily basis and it makes me happy knowing that I am making a difference.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

Mrs. Garza is the most influential teacher in my life. Mrs. Garza was my fifth grade teacher and she always went above and beyond to help me when I was struggling. She would stay after school with me just to help me with my reading. She never gave up on me and I didn’t give up on myself because of how much she believed in me.

Honoring Marlene Cabrera


Marlene Cabrera

Curriculum Support Specialist

Miami, FL

As a young child, Marlene Cabrera and her family immigrated to the United States leaving behind family and memories of their beloved Cuba. Growing up in Chicago and being the only Hispanic in a primarily Polish neighborhood was difficult but her parents instilled in her the desire to have a better life in a free and democratic country. This responsibility, to be the first to graduate and receive an education, became her driving force to succeed. The shiny bowling trophies her elementary teacher held up to the class as a reward for academic excellence became her second inspiration. Ms. Cabrera had never seen anything so precious and special in her young life. During her teen years, her family moved to Miami, where she found a community that reintroduced her to her Cuban heritage and culture.

As an educator, Ms. Cabrera had the privilege of teaching several subject in the secondary environment: English, Journalism, Art, Drama, ESOL, Reading, and AP Language & Composition. She earned a Masters in Reading and National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) certification in Adolescent/Young Adult English Language Arts. She served several years as a Reading Coach liaison at Terra Environmental Research Institute, a magnet school in MDCPS. She had the privilege to work for The Florida Literacy and Reading Excellence (FLaRe) Program grant at the University of Central Florida sponsored by the Just Read, Florida Office. As a FLaRe Coordinator, Ms. Cabrera worked with literacy professionals from various districts and presented literacy workshops statewide while providing support to Reading Coaches in the Miami-Dade County area. As a FLaRE Coordinator, she served as an expert commentator on LEaRN, a reading literacy website. Ms. Cabrera’s multiple certifications in Gifted Education, English, ESOL, Art and Reading have provided her the avenue in which to be able to reach many Hispanic students at different language levels.

Currently, Ms. Cabrera is the Curriculum Support Specialist for the Department of Bilingual and World Languages for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Along with a team of highly qualified professions from the department, they presented at NABE and will continue to present best practices for their ESOL students as the district continues to adapt the WIDA standards. In addition, she is a trainer for the ESOL and Reading Endorsements for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and for Beaconeducator.com. As an Adjunct for Miami Dade College, Ms. Cabrera has also had the opportunity to assist students of various ages reach their dream of a college education by teaching remedial courses for the College Prep Department.

Why do you teach?

I teach because I love to share my passion for learning. I remember telling my mother after my Masters degrees that I was done with learning and school. She shrugged and smiled. Five years later, I was applying for National Boards certification. Learning is fun! If I could share this passion with others and transfer this joy to multitudes of children, then the world would be a much better place. I also teach because I feel that to maintain a democracy its citizens must be properly educated and well informed. The future of this great democracy lies on the education of our children.

What do you love about teaching?

I love being creative and inspiring the magic that happens when you learn. I love developing thematic units around big ideas such as gender roles, multicultural education, civil responsibilities, and personal identity. I love being there for newly arrived English Language Learners (ELLs) and helping them make the language and cultural transition. I love teaching and believing with a strong sense of efficacy that ELLs are capable of achieving great heights if given a rigorous and appropriate education.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

As a student at Frank W. Reilly K-8 in Chicago, I was blessed to have had amazing educators who inspired me to learn and grow. Every teacher added to my intellectual growth and artistic development. I was allowed to help teachers design bulletin boards, enter Science Fairs, and learn English. At Madonna High School, I learned about religion, spirituality, and camaraderie. At Miami Coral Park, I met Dr, Moore who welcomed me with a thoughtful daily quote and taught me to love literature as a critical independent thinker. Although stoic and stern, he was approachable and provided me with advice that turned my high school graduation day into a successful family encounter.

Honoring Michelle Sánchez

Michelle Sánchez

Special Education Teacher

Los Angeles, CA

Michelle Sánchez is a Special Education Teacher at Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School, the only grade 7-12 school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In this role, she works with High Functioning Autistic students, creating individualized educational plans to help students develop non-cognitive skills in social communication, executive functioning, and behavioral self-management. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Sánchez serves as an Assistant Coach for Cross Country and for Track and Field.

Prior to joining the faculty at Eagle Rock, Ms. Sánchez spent four years with the Boston Public Schools.  She taught eighth grade English and History at Gardner Pilot Academy, a full-inclusion K-8 school that is further distinguished as one of 21 pilot schools within the district. In addition to teaching, Ms. Sánchez also served as the school’s Media and Technology Specialist. In this role, she supported teachers with integrating technology into curriculum, advised students as they launched the school’s first newspaper and yearbook publications, and empowered families through English and Spanish language instruction in computer literacy with the Technology Goes Home organization. Drawing on these experiences, Ms. Sánchez has presented on family and community engagement strategies at Boston College’s New Teacher Academy Conference and on technology integration methods at Harvard University’s LearnLaunch15 Conference.  Her passion for education began as a teacher’s assistant at Dickinson College Children’s Center and the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Ms. Sanchez also had the opportunity of serving middle school students in Sacramento, CA through the Breakthrough Collaborative summer teaching fellowship.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Michelle Sánchez is the proud daughter of Mexican and Costa Rican immigrants. She attended LAUSD public schools, graduating from Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School as a Posse Foundation Scholar. A first-generation college graduate, Ms. Sánchez earned her B.A. in American Studies and Spanish at Dickinson College. She completed the Breakthrough Collaborative summer teaching fellowship in Sacramento, CA and went on to complete her M.Ed. in Secondary Education History at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education as a Donovan Urban Teaching Scholar.

What do you love about teaching?

Teaching enables me to work with students of all backgrounds and ability levels, and I strive to inspire all of my students to fully embrace their potential, to set high and ambitious goals, and to work toward those goals with confidence.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

I was fortunate to have many dedicated teachers—such as Ms. Ngo, Ms. Lynch, Mr. Oswald, Mr. Beaty— who  cultivated my curiosity for learning, who showed patience and compassion on my bad days, and who gave me the confidence to reach the finish line. I am honored to return to Eagle Rock to teach alongside many of my former teachers, and I like to think that I may also have a few future teachers in my classroom.

Why do you teach?

I teach to help my students become aware of their strengths and interests so that they can ultimately find their voice.


Rosalita Santiago


Rosalita Santiago

First Grade Math and Spanish Language Arts Teacher

Arlington, Virginia

Rosalita Santiago has twelve years of experience in education, teaching kindergarten, first grade, seventh grade, and high school. She is a first grade Math & Spanish Language Arts teacher at Claremont Immersion School in Arlington, Virginia.Rosalita joined the community of Claremont Immersion School in 2014. She is a mentor to a first-year Latino teacher and a teacher leader for her schools pilot program Discovery Education/Digital Learning School.

Her professional experience includes being a lead mentor, a Kindergarten and World language In-service facilitator, a world language curriculum developer, and an ECO school representative. Rosalita is an active participant of her professional learning community. She loves learning as well as collaborating with her peers. She is currently working with her school ITC, Wilmarie Clark, and is starting a new coding club at her school this spring. Her goal is to increase student access and exposure to computer science education through after-school programs. Rosalita graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a B.A., English Secondary level. She earned an M.A., K-12 Technology Integration from Nova Southeastern University. She also obtained M.Ed., P.K.-6 Elementary Education from Marymount University.

Why do you teach?

It is fun and challenging. I enjoy working with children and providing them with opportunities for them to explore, discover, and learn independently and collaboratively through a variety of learning experiences. It is a rewarding career.

What do you love about teaching?

I love all aspects of teaching. It is a dynamic profession! It is an amazing experience to be able to not only plan, create, and deliver learning opportunities for the students, but to learn from students as they immerse themselves in the learning process.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

In my early educational years I would have been considered a transient student. My family moved many times between Puerto Rico and New Jersey as well as within New Jersey. I cannot recall a time I felt unwelcomed as I started a new school or returned to my previous school. My teachers were always kind, respectful, and understanding. They made sure I was learning and being challenge. In addition, they also taught my mom how to support me at home in completing homework assignments. I am not able to name a specific teacher, as I was lucky to have a great support system not only at my school but at home. My mom and my older sister were always available to answer my questions and provide support as needed. It is an honor for me to say that all of the teachers that taught me and my family inspired me to be driven and a lifelong learner.

Una oportunidad para todos; por qué El Guardián de mi Hermano (My Brother’s Keeper) es de vital importancia para la juventud hispana

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Por: Marco Davis, Director Adjunto de la Iniciativa de la Casa Blanca sobre la Excelencia Educativa para los Hispanos y Michael Smith, Asistente Especial al Presidente y Director Jefe de Asuntos del Gabinete para El guardián de mi hermano (My Brother’s Keeper)

El 28 de septiembre, en honor del Mes de la Herencia Hispana, la Casa Blanca mostró la versión en español del documental de Discovery “Rise: the Promise of My Brother’s Keeper”, que se presentó este mes en el canal Discovery en Español como “El guardián de mi Hermano” (My Brother’s Keeper). El documental lleva a los espectadores en un viaje inspirador por cuatro de los miles de programas de todo el país que son testigo de los principios de la iniciativa de El Guardián de mi Hermano (MBK, por sus siglas en inglés), la llamada de acción del Presidente Obama a la nación para hacer frente a las lagunas de oportunidad que siguen existiendo para los chicos y jóvenes de minorías y garantizar que todas las personas jóvenes puedan alcanzar su máximo potencial.

Después de la proyección, Enrique Santos, celebridad de televisión y radio, presidió en un panel de debate sobre el impacto de MBK en los jóvenes hispanos, y del papel importante que cumple este programa para ayudar a la gente joven en comunidades desatendidas. Junto a Santos se encontraba la concejal de Phoenix, Arizona, Kate Gallego, el Reverendo Gabriel Salgado, el líder de YouthBuild Brandon Menjares, Melanca Clark, Jefe de Gabinete de la Oficina de Servicios Policiales Enfocados en la Comunidad del Departamento de Justicia, y Michael Smith, el Director Jefe de Asuntos del Gabinete de la Casa Blanca para El Guardián de mi Hermano.

Brandon Menjares habló sobre su lucha personal como joven de minorías, que fue adoptado como recién nacido por una familia puertorriqueña y que trágicamente perdió a ambos padres adoptivos al llegar a la adolescencia. Sin esperanzas ni mucha ayuda de nadie, Brandon dejó la escuela y se vio en caída libre, víctima de su entorno violento y con un sentimiento paralizante de abandono. Brandon hace referencia a YouthBuild como “un cambio rotundo”, y gracias a su apoyo consiguió obtener su diploma de la escuela secundaria y terminar el colegio comunitario. Brandon ahora goza de un empleo fijo y hace charlas motivadoras para miles de jóvenes del país. Es un gran ejemplo de cómo con los recursos y oportunidades adecuados, cualquier persona joven puede superar sus circunstancias y convertirse en un miembro valioso de la sociedad.

El panel ofreció un debate animado sobre los retos a los que se enfrenta la juventud hispana y de cómo el gobierno federal puede colaborar con gobiernos estatales y locales, organizaciones privadas, académicos y la policía para fomentar la misión de MBK. El Reverendo Salguero puso énfasis en la importancia de dialogar con la comunidad religiosa para crear lugares seguros para los jóvenes en riesgo, o como describió el Reverendo Salguero, los jóvenes “en promesa”, y ofrecerles alternativas viables para salir de la pobreza y la violencia que les den la fuerza para embarcarse en un viaje de éxito. La Concejal Gallego habló sobre porqué Phoenix aceptó el reto comunitario de MBK del Presidente y cómo está trabajando con el alcalde para emplear las asociaciones locales y federales para ofrecer oportunidades para todos los jóvenes de Phoenix.

Según la Oficina del Censo de EE.UU., los chicos y hombres jóvenes de origen hispano son el grupo más grande y más jóven de todos los jóvenes de minorías, con aproximadamente 7.3 millones de varones hispanos entre las edades de 10 y 24. No obstante, aún existen lagunas de desempeño importantes en algunas áreas clave. El Departamento de Educación de EE.UU. encontró que las tasas de graduación para los varones hispanos inscritos en la universidad por primera vez a tiempo completo en instituciones de 4 años y cursando licenciaturas eran mucho más bajas que las de varones blancos; un 46 % frente a un 69 %.

Desde que el Presidente lanzó El Guardián de mi Hermano en febrero de 2014, más de 200 comunidades han aceptado el reto comunitario de El Guardián de mi Hermano; un gran número de corporaciones y fundaciones se han comprometido a invertir más de $500 millones para empujar los objetivos de El Guardián de mi Hermano; y la Fuerza de Trabajo de MBK ha anunciado docenas de iniciativas de políticas nuevas, programas de becas y asesoramiento. Todo ello para ayudar a expandir las oportunidades para nuestros hijos y garantizar que sepan que son importantes.

El Guardián de mi Hermano y las miles de organizaciones basadas en la evidencia que trabajan para expandir las oportunidades para nuestros hijos, son de vital importancia para el bienestar de millones de jóvenes marginados y desconectados, que incluye a chicos y jóvenes de minorías. Todos se merecen una segunda oportunidad y lo único que separa a estos jóvenes de sus pares es la oportunidad: El guardián de mi hermano y sus aliados se comprometen a cerrar las lagunas y asegurar que Estados Unidos continúe siendo un lugar donde cualquiera puede triunfar si lo intenta.

Para más información sobre cómo puede participar, puede visitar wh.gov/mybrotherskeeper


A Fighting Chance for All – Why My Brother’s Keeper is Crucial for Hispanic Youth

By: Marco Davis, Deputy Director of the WH Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Michael Smith, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for My Brother’s Keeper

On September 28, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the White House screened the Spanish-language version of Discovery’s documentary “Rise: the Promise of My Brother’s Keeper,” which was released earlier this month on Discovery en Español as “El Guardián de mi Hermano” (My Brother’s Keeper). The film takes viewers on an inspiring journey into four of the thousands of programs around the country that are living the principles of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative — President Obama’s call to the nation to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

After the screening, TV/Radio personality Enrique Santos hosted a panel discussion on the impact of MBK for Hispanic youth, and the important role this effort plays to assist young people in underserved communities. Joining Santos were Phoenix, AZ Councilwoman Kate Gallego, Reverend Gabriel Salgado, YouthBuild leader Brandon Menjares, Melanca Clark, Chief of Staff for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at DOJ, and Michael Smith, White House Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for My Brother’s Keeper.

Brandon Menjares spoke on his personal struggles as a young man of color – being adopted by a Puerto Rican family as a newborn, and tragically losing both of his adoptive parents by the time he was teenager. Hopeless and without much guidance, Brandon dropped out of school and found himself in a downward spiral – a victim of his violent surroundings and with a paralyzing feeling of abandonment. Brandon attributes YouthBuild as being “life changing,” and through their support was able to obtain his GED and complete community college. Today, Brandon is gainfully employed and serves as a motivational speaker to thousands of young people across the nation, and is a proud example that with the right resources and opportunities, any young person can overcome their circumstances and become a valuable member of society.

The panel offered a lively discussion on the challenges faced by Hispanic youth, and how the federal government can work with state and local governments, private organizations, academia and law enforcement to further MBK’s mission. Rev. Salguero emphasized the importance of engaging the faith community to create safe spaces for at-risk youth – or as Reverend Salguero described “at-promise” youth, offer them viable alternatives that lifts them from poverty and violence, and empowers them to embark in a journey of success. Councilwoman Gallego spoke about why Phoenix took on the President’s MBK community challenge and how she is working with the mayor to leverage local and federal partnerships to provide opportunities for all youth in Phoenix.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic boys and young men are the largest, youngest group of all young men of color, with an estimated 7.3 million Hispanic males between ages of 10 and 24. However, there are still significant performance gaps in key areas. The U.S. Dept. of Education found that graduation rates for Hispanic males attending college for the first time, on a full-time basis at a 4-year institution, and seeking bachelor’s degrees were substantially lower than for white males – 46% versus 69%.

Since the President launched My Brother’s Keeper in February 2014, more than 200 Communities have accepted the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge; scores of corporations and foundations have committed to invest more than $500 million to advance the goals of My Brother’s Keeper; and the MBK Task Force has announced dozens of new policy initiatives, grant programs and guidance – all working to expand opportunity for our kids and ensure they know they matter.

My Brother’s Keeper, and the thousands of evidence-based organizations working to expand opportunity for our kids, are critical to the wellbeing of millions of marginalized and disconnected young people, including boys and young men of color. Everybody deserves a second a chance, and the only thing that separates these youth from their peers is opportunity: My Brother’s Keeper and its allies are committed to bridging that gap and making sure America remains a place where you can make it if you try.

For more information on how you can be involved, please visit wh.gov/mybrotherskeeper.


#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Pearl Arredondo


Pearl Arredondo is a National Board Certified Teacher of sixth-grade English and History. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and Psychology as well as a Master of Arts in Education and Instructional Leadership from Pepperdine University. In 2010, she was part of a teacher-led team that founded San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), the first pilot middle school established in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She taught for 10 years before becoming the instructional specialist and now principal of SFiAM. Pearl is passionate about increasing student access to technology and closing the digital divide. She is featured in People Magazine’s My American Dream: Great Success Against All Odds campaign sponsored by Milk Life. She was also featured on TED Talks Education and is a frequent speaker and panelist related to those key issues. As a Teach Plus Policy Fellow, she met with President Obama’s senior advisors to discuss teacher tenure and elevating the teaching profession. As part of Educators for Excellence, she helped write a series of recommendations entitled Reimagining Tenure: Protecting Our Students and Our Profession. In 2014, she received the “Inspirational Teacher Award” from United Way of Greater Los Angeles, was named California Woman of the Year from California Assembly District 39, and was honored at the Ford Theatre’s Annual Gala for being an inspirational teacher. Pearl is a tireless advocate for public education and technology-based curriculum. She is also a role model for young Latinas seeking to make a difference in their communities. Her goal is to make SFiAM a model of educational reform by preparing all students to be effective communicators in the 21st century.

Why do you teach?  I teach because my life trajectory was changed by teachers at a very young age. It took one teacher to say I would never make it and another to say I would. Since then, I realized that everyone could use support and I wanted to be that person. I knew that I wanted to help others achieve greatness, especially when all the odds were against them.

What do you love about teaching? What I love about teaching is that every day is a new opportunity to start fresh. It provides a backdrop for continuous progress, no matter how slow. On the days that students look frustrated or ready to give up, I switch gears and remind them that nothing worth doing will ever be easy. I love it the most when they believe me and continue to push through.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? As a fifth grade student in Ms. Hirschkoff’s class, I learned that I could be unstoppable. She challenged me to look beyond my circumstances and pursue education as means of upward mobility. She believed that I could compete with the best students. She caused me to believe in myself. As I decided upon a career, I thought about how she impacted my life and knew that I wanted to do the same for others.


#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Omar Araiza

Omar Araiza Pic

Omar Araiza teaches 5th grade at the Robert F. Kennedy Community School’s New Open World (NOW) Academy in the underserved community of Koreatown in Los Angeles. He was a LA Unified School District student throughout his K-12 education and now is a teacher in the same system that schooled him. He will be entering his 10th year of teaching. He grew up in Los Angeles in the predominantly Latino immigrant community of Boyle Heights. He attended University of California, Los Angeles for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with minors in Chicana/o Studies, education, and public policy in 2001. He received his teaching credential and master’s of education in 2007, and his administrative credential and master’s of education in 2012. He has served as grade level lead and GATE Coordinator at his school. He has been a mentor teacher to beginning teachers that are pursuing their preliminary credential. He has received the Perfect Attendance award due to zero absences. He will begin working on my National Board certification.

Why do you teach? I teach because someone taught me and now it’s my turn to give back. I teach because I want to make dreams come true for families that share my same ethnic and cultural background. I teach because I feel it is my responsibility to get my students ready to enact their goals. I can see myself teaching for the next 30 years!

What do you love about teaching? There are many things I love about teaching. I love working with students and helping them achieve new levels of learning. I enjoy teaching my students new material that captivates their interests. I love exposing my students to learning that will be relevant to their lives, which will allow them to become informed, critical thinking citizens of our world.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? I never stopped being a student. Lifelong learning is a quality I want to instill in my students. One of my college professors inspired me to think this way. I never thought of myself as a learner, but only as a provider of knowledge until my professor said that she herself was a lifelong learner. She also said that she learned from us, her students. That led me to think that I can learn from my students too. She has inspired me to continue learning and to pass this love of lifelong learning to my students. She has inspired me to look for professional development opportunities and readings that not only will enrich my craft but that are relevant to my students’ needs.

#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Nancy Ballesteros


Coming from a family who has instilled the notion that she could achieve anything in life if she worked hard contributed to the person she is today. Nancy Ballesteros parents taught her that with dedication and determination your dreams will become a reality. At times, obstacles hindered her success and made it extremely difficult for her to continue with her goals. During her elementary and high school years she struggled with the academic content due to a language barrier. However, she did not let this prevent her from achieving her goals. She graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education on December 17, 2011.

Teaching has always been her dream. Nancy is currently in her fourth year of teaching for the Chicago Public Schools. She has been working as an 8th grade Language Arts teacher at Madero Middle school in the Southwest of Chicago. As a teacher, she actively pursues professional development opportunities. She has worked closely with her administrator and tenured teachers conducting observations, setting goals, and reflecting on her professional practice. It is her sincerest desire to become a highly effective teacher and to profoundly impact the lives of her students.

Because of her personal struggles acquiring academic English proficiency, she had a special desire to teach and advocate for young people who are English Language Learners. She is currently enrolled in the ESL endorsement courses at the University of Illinois Chicago campus to strengthen her skills in this area.

She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in the Educational Studies concentration within the MEd Instructional Leadership program with an emphasis in English as a Second Language in order to be a more efficacious public educator. She wishes to not only be more adaptive to the learning needs of her students, but also to broaden her appreciation of and sensitivity to cultural differences. She wants to improve her ability to assess, plan, and deliver instruction in a manner that is pedagogically sound and addresses the needs of diverse learners. It is her belief that her graduate courses at University of Illinois Chicago will have a lasting impact on the youth she teaches.

Why do you teach? I have always wanted to become a teacher since I could remember. I teach because I know that a teacher’s influence can impact a child’s life and a make a difference. I provide an important influence that helps my students make the right decisions, even when they are not in my classroom.

I believe my role as an educator is to be a guide for students as they develop as independent, curious learners. I help students discover topics and activities that interest them and can inspire them to want to learn for its own intrinsic value. I promote acceptance and appreciation of diversity as a teacher. My classroom is a place where different ideas, interests, personalities, and cultures are all accepted and celebrated. As an educator, I must take a genuine interest in the individual students that I serve. I treat them with unconditional regard and always am happy to see them. I scaffold responsibilities in a way that guides students in developing self-discipline and self-monitoring skills. I am an advocate for students’ needs and empower young people to advocate for themselves.

What do you love about teaching? I truly love to see my students learn while exposing them to a high level of education just like other students in prestigious neighborhoods. I love to see them enthusiastic as they enter my classroom every single day.   I also love to see them grow physically, mentally, and socio-emotionally from the start of the school year to the end.


#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Micaela Barnes


Micaela Barnes has been in education for about 18 years in a variety of positions. She began as a secretary, moved up to a paraeducator, and after completing her degree, she became a teacher. She has not taught for 10 years.

When she began teaching, she taught Math at Chase Middle School. She was in her element with Spanish speaking students and students who were on their way to giving up on school. While most teachers gave incentives of jolly ranchers or tootsie rolls, she would give out Gansitos for a week’s worth of homework completion. In return, her students nicknamed her Gansito! She began to notice that her students weren’t reading and comprehending word problems. She went back to school and received her Masters in Education with an emphasis in Reading Specialist. She is now teaching Language Arts.

One year, she had a group of mainstreaming ELL students and was lucky enough to teach dual language with a co-teacher. She has been a reviewer for West-Ed and the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. In this area, she volunteered to review items for the Kansas State Assessment in both general education and special education. She has presented workshops in her building on Interactive Notebooks, Running Records with Miscue Analysis, and is the building representative for the local NEA.

Why do you teach? I know what it is like to be a struggling learner. I enjoy seeing students find their confidence and continue to grow.

What do you love about teaching? I love seeing my students enjoy reading; it might be them reading aloud in a variety of voices, going outside and laying on the grass, or putting on silly hats (they originally thought were baby-ish) so they can read.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? Gilberto R. Chabarria inspired me to teach. I loved his humor and love for his subject. I remember thinking while in his 5th grade class – “I want to be just like my Papi!” Yes, my dad was my 5th grade teacher and he is the reason I became a teacher.

#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Martha Maitchoukow


Martha Maitchoukow is currently a 7th and 8th grade English Magnet Teacher at Markham Middle School in Watts, California – Markham is one of sixteen PLAS – Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. Her passion for English emerged when she was 8 years old as a result of living in the Venezuelan oil field camps, at the time operated by major American oil corporations where most people spoke English. She set her mind to one day speak English and she made it happen. Her parents sent her away to school in an all-girls boarding school in Canada. She learned the language (not without going through the pain and struggle of someone who comes to a country where no one speaks your native language, this later would help her better understand her students) and successfully completed high school.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University, got received her Masters degree from University of Phoenix and a second degree from University of San Diego, both Summa Cum Laude.

Her undeniable passion for education comes from a father who so strongly believed in literacy and writing, someone who woke her up earlier in the mornings to read, someone who believed with all his heart and soul that every child has an inalienable right to a quality education. She began her teaching career in the United States with the Azusa Unified School District where she found much needed support, not only from a group of amazing co-workers but a family; however, one day she heard about the need for teachers at underserved schools in Los Angeles. She began her quest and was blessed with the opportunity of teaching in Watts.

She was chosen as The Magnet Teacher of the Year, PLAS Outstanding Educator and City of Los Angeles award for dedication and commitment to the students.

Why do you teach? I teach because teaching is definitely ‘my calling’; teaching fills my heart and my life wearing all the different hats as a teacher, psychologist, counselor, advisor and many times a mom. It gives me so many opportunities to be a ‘life saver’ because I not only teach my students curriculum, I know I need to teach them life skills; how to build bridges not walls so that they can successfully get to their destinations. I teach because I believe in every child that walks into my classroom every year, and I know I can be an inspiration and a positive influence in their lives.

What do you love about teaching? I love everything about teaching because I believe teaching is the most enriching and rewarding profession in the world. I look forward to seeing how every day my students discover their talents and believe that indeed they are wired for greatness. I love the trust and rapport I build with them and the open channel of communication so that they can come and share with me their issues and concerns.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? I did have two teachers who impacted my life: my 3rd grade teacher because the tons of patience she had with me wanting to be the class clown, and my 9th grade teacher who led me to believe that I was a genius for math which eventually led me to become an environmental engineer.