First Bright Spot in Hispanic Education Google + Hangout Highlights Local Efforts on College Access for Latino Students

Posted by Maria Pastrana Lujan, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

On November 18, 2015, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics launched its Bright Spots in Hispanic Education Google+ Hangout sessions. The inaugural event highlighted the tremendous efforts of Bright Spots focused on college access for all students, in including Latino and undocumented students around the country. Executive Director, Alejandra Ceja and U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, Leslie Acosta, were joined by representatives from Bright Spots in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas on a dynamic and informative discussion featuring promising practices and strategies supporting college access and other efforts helping reduce the academic achievement gap for Hispanics.

This year, the national high school graduation rate rose to 81 percent, the highest in history, in part due to the high numbers of Latino students graduating. Ensuring they have access to a postsecondary education and providing them the tools and resources to enroll

Initiative Staff conducting Google Hangout

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics staff at Google + Hangout on College Access on November 18, 2015.

is critical. The number of Hispanic youth enrolled in college has reached a record high, 2.4 million. However, Hispanics continue to lag other groups when it comes to earning a bachelor’s degree (Pew Research Center, 2015). Bright Spots featured are helping to combat this disparity through their efforts.

“Educators should focus on [college access] as early as the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade” because waiting until the junior or senior year of Latino students can be too late,” Carina Soto, Program Manager, Career and College Clubs.

The approaches vary and are tailored to their student needs. The Unidos Project at the University of New Mexico takes a holistic approach on mentorship, or as they call it, “academic coaching.” The program has seen a historic increase in undergraduate retention rates. College Spring, a California-based organization, is focused on improving SAT scores, navigation of college admissions, and supporting the financial needs of students. Undergraduates have the opportunity to mentor and tutor under supported youth through their personal experience and knowledge while also receiving academic credit. One-by-One, in East Moline, Illinois, motivates 7th and 8th graders by having them visit college campuses and introducing them to community leaders of color to help them envision themselves succeeding.

Bright Spots also heard about the efforts on behalf of the Administration to help increase access and ensure affordability to a postsecondary education. We know that our students cannot wait for the support they need to achieve their dreams of a higher education. It is inspiring to see local, state and national efforts join in what President Obama calls a “shared responsibility.” In order to once again lead the world with the highest number of postsecondary education degree attainment, we must continue working together, learning from one another and expanding access to college and career.

The next Google+ Hangout will take place on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 on Early Learning. We hope you will join us as we work together to move the needle on progress for Hispanic students across the nation.

Initiative Staff conducting Google Hangout

Participant Bright Spots on Hispanic Education for College Access:

Career and College Clubs (Based in Manhattan Beach, California with sites in Colorado, Texas, Ohio, and Washington D.C.) , College Forward (Austin, Texas), Metas Program (San Jose, California), One-by-One (Glenview Middle School, East Moline, Illinois) Adults Achieving a College Education (AACE) in Rio Salado College (Tempe, Arizona), the University of North Carolina Wilmington Centro Hispano (Wilmington, North Carolina), and Unidos Project (Albuquerque, New Mexico).

U.S. Department of Education college access resources:

College Scorecard:

Financial Student Aid tool kit:

Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth

Bright Spots in Hispanic Education national catalog:

To view the full engagement video here:

New Resource Guide Helps Undocumented Students Achieve Their Dreams

This was crossposted on the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide to support undocumented students in high school and college. The guide aims, “to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers.”

The effort will help individuals and organizations invested in education better support undocumented youth, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The guide’s objectives include: helping educators and school staff support undocumented students academically, debunking misconceptions and clarifying undocumented students’ legal rights, sharing information about financial aid options, and supporting youth to apply for DACA consideration or renewal.

Resources like those listed in the guide were critical for me. As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland and the first intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics who was a DACA recipient, I have been directly impacted by the resources and tools provided by the Obama administration which help improve the educational trajectory of undocumented students.

When my family moved from Colombia to the United States, I was six years old. I would have never imagined having the opportunities that DACA afforded me. DACA allowed me to continue pursuing my dreams of a obtaining a quality higher education. As a DACA recipient, I was able to apply for and obtain a Hispanic Scholarship Fund scholarship and become a Frank Karel Fellow in Public Interest Communications. And, I was able to get a driver’s license, which allowed me to drive to and from campus, making my education more accessible.

For undocumented youth in the U.S., the future can feel uncertain. Yet it is deeply significant and helpful that schools continue to welcome all students regardless of status, educators and counselors remain trustworthy and understanding of the sensitivity around this critical issue, and students have access to resources that support their attainment of a higher education, including financial aid options. Absent of true immigration reform, and as I work towards helping ensure a brighter future for more Latinos, including undocumented youth and DACA recipients, I will continue to share my story with the hope that more students will come out of the shadows and apply for DACA.

Since 2012, more than 680,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children have received DACA. The majority of these applicants are of Hispanic origin. Research indicates that about 1.5 million undocumented youth in the U.S. are currently eligible for DACA and that 400,000 more young people will be eligible in coming years. The new Resource Guide is an invaluable tool for educators who are dedicated to supporting the educational attainment and success of all their students, including those who are undocumented. For me, receiving DACA was a life-changer, allowing me to reach my full potential.

Access the resource guide here.

Karen Vanegas is an intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

#LatinosAchieve When We Believe in Them

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

Today, a high school education is simply not enough. The global, knowledge-based economy that we live in means that some post-secondary education, whether that be a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, a certificate or a credential, is essential. Which is why we must invest in the educational future of our Hispanic youth. Hispanic youth are in large part the face of our nation and our next generation of leaders. So we need to invest in them if we want to be serious about our future. Although Hispanic high school dropout rates hit a record low at 13 percent in 2012, they’re still higher than any other demographic. Hispanic youth will represent 70 percent of population growth in our country between 2015 and 2060, and are rapidly growing faster than any other minority group. It is our duty to make sure that our next generation of politicians, teachers, CEOs, engineers and entrepreneurs are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

Progress is being made but not nearly fast enough. And for me, this isn’t simply an intellectual matter. As a Puerto Rican, I’ve seen first-hand how the power of a great education can change lives across the country, as well as back home on the island that gave birth to my mother.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud to lead First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. We work to inspire young people to take control of their future by exposing students to college and career opportunities, making financial aid and college affordability a reality, supporting academic and summer planning, and investing in school counselors. We want young people, including Hispanics, to know that education after high school has to be part of their plan. That enrolling and completing college is essential to ensuring their achievement and success.

When speaking at the 85th Annual Conference of the League of United Latin American Citizens last year, the First lady spoke about the need for investing in education for Hispanic youth. She said, “As you know, too many young people in the Latino community simply aren’t fulfilling their potential… We have got to … reignite that hunger for opportunity — that hunger for education – across all of our communities. And we all have a role to play in this endeavor. Parents have to be reading to their kids from an early age and making sure they go to school every day and do their homework every night. Our young people, you have a role to play as well. You have to make education your number-one priority and be role models for those around you.”

The efforts led by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, including their nearly $340 million in public and private sector commitments and the U.S. Department of Education’s work to make college accessible and affordable are key to ensuring this population has the tools they need to achieve.

This issue requires all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure students and families are getting access to the resources and information to help make college a reality. That might be filling out the FAFSA, which gives students access to $150 billion in aid for college, or talking to your school counselor, who can help students or families navigate the application process. It also means taking rigorous, college-ready courses like Advanced Placement; and it means thinking about getting internships and mentorship programs that can help young people see the value of a college degree.

We also need to make the process easier. President Obama and the First Lady have been working hard to create and promote tools such as the College Scorecard to help make students find the best college value and fit. They also recently announced that starting in 2016, students can begin filling out the FAFSA three months earlier, so that financial aid can be secured earlier and in time to help make college decisions.

To the young Hispanics who are now in the swing of school, challenge yourselves to take your education seriously. Start talking to your parents about finances, take challenging classes, build strong bonds with your teachers and administration, join clubs and extracurriculars that will expose you to new things, and most importantly believe in yourselves. Believe that you can achieve and do whatever you put your mind to; starting with college. Because we do.

Eric Waldo is the Executive Director for the Reach Higher Initiative

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: How IDEA Public Schools is Closing the Gap

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement blog.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and Secretary Duncan’s visit to South Texas, today we are highlighting IDEA Public Schools, a Texas-based Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) grantee that’s been recognized for helping Latinos, particularly English language learners, make strong achievement gains. Just last month, the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics named IDEA a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education.

In 2012, IDEA won a Race to the Top – District (RTT–D) award aimed at personalizing student learning and closing achievement gaps. IDEA is also a past recipient of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant and grants from OII’s Charter Schools Program. IDEA’s network serves approximately 24,000 students in 44 public charter schools across Texas. More than 90 percent are Hispanic, and a third are still acquiring English speaking, reading, and writing skills.

For nine consecutive years, 100 percent of IDEA’s graduating seniors have been accepted to college, and achievement scores have consistently been above the state’s average. We checked in with Tricia Lopez, IDEA’s Director of Special Programs, about what’s behind the network’s success and how the RTT–D grant has been helping the network meet its goals.
Author and illustrator Patricia Polacco speaks to IDEA Public Schools students in Texas’ Mid-Valley.

Author and illustrator Patricia Polacco speaks to IDEA Public Schools students in Texas’ Mid-Valley.

Meeting Local Needs and Personalizing Learning

The 2012 RTT–D grant came during a critical period for the network. Around that time, IDEA was experiencing increased demand for its schools, particularly from students with limited English proficiency, according to Lopez. “The grant came at an important time, and it helped us to really step back and think strategically about how we were serving this population,” she said.

To help their English language learners, IDEA educators and leaders have created personalized learning experiences that differentiate instruction for each English language learner. IDEA uses adaptive technology designed for kids learning English and assesses their individual reading, writing, and speaking skills and helps them improve at the appropriate pace.

“This differentiation is critical. I could have 50 English language learners in a grade. They can range from having not one word of English to being pretty far along in terms of their language acquisition, but not quite fluent. It only makes sense to vary their instruction, but that doesn’t always happen in schools,” Lopez said.

Supporting Teachers

The RTT–D grant has also helped IDEA with teacher training, particularly making sure educators have the tools and background they need to close gaps between English language learners and their peers. The grant has helped pay for teachers across grades to receive in-person and online training in “sheltered instruction,” which gives general education classroom teachers specific training in working with students still acquiring English language skills to access grade-level content.

“It touches on things like: what kind of materials you should have in your classroom; what kind of strategies you should use for math; the value of word walls; having more frequent checks for understanding; and giving students more time to answer questions,” Lopez said. “These are common sense but not necessarily intuitive, especially for teachers early in their careers. It has to be on your radar, and the training helps with that.”

These efforts are paying off. Scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for ELL students rose by double digits over the past two years, faster growth than for any other subgroup of students in the network. As it continues to progress, IDEA is proving that when given the right supports, all students—no matter their background or first language—can learn and succeed.

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


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


#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.