Mathematics Middle School Teacher in Washington, DC
Growing up in Pico Rivera, California to two Mexican immigrants, Arlene knew the true value of a great education. She became the first in her family to graduate from college. Having been a product of the Pico Rivera public school system, she understood the struggles English Language Learners faced and the critical roles teachers play in student lives to go to college. Arlene received her bachelors at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and Philosophy in 2011, but realized that if she wanted to pursue a career in Education Policy, she needed first-hand experience as the role of an educator. That summer, she joined Teach for America in Washington D.C. as a middle school math teacher where she taught math entirely in Spanish to an amazing group of students who came from diverse backgrounds. These students mirror her experiences as a child since they are also first generation, English Language Learners of Latino descent. Teaching math not only allowed her to see that policy has a major influence on her students’ lives, but it also gave her the opportunity to notice the positive impact a Latina role model can have on their academic success. Because she has seen the lack of Latinos in STEM education, she is continuously striving to have her students fall in love with math by leading a coding course, a robotics team, having a Parent Math Course for Spanish speaking parents, and getting her team of 7th graders ready for this winter’s DC Math Quiz Bowl. Moreover, alongside her Teach for America coach, Arlene created Teach for America’s La Familia in DC to build a community of Latino educators in the DC region and aided with the recruitment efforts in DC and in LA to increase the number of Latino applicants to Teach for America. Arlene serves on the board for Teach for America’s The Collective and Young Alumni Board. She currently teaches 7th grade Math at Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Washington D.C.
Why do you teach? When I hear the terrifying statistics about Latinos regarding high school completion rates, college graduation rates and students pursuing STEM majors, it is the fuel that drives me to teach my students every day. These statistics are not simply numbers, they represent me, they represent family members, and they represent my students. I teach because I want to make sure that my students know that I was once in their shoes and they can achieve anything their hearts desire. My students need someone who can advocate for them and show them the way to college.
What do you love about teaching? I absolutely adore my students! They are the most creative, intelligent, unique, and hilarious human beings you will ever meet. Being so far away from home, these students have become my family. I love that we share so much knowledge and culture in our classroom. They are truly the reason I teach.
When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? Definitely! My 5th grade teacher Mrs. Lomeli was the main reason I went into teaching because she advocated for me to exit out of a bilingual classroom (knowing I would later be tracked in middle school) and how that affected my chances of attaining AP courses by the time I would enter high school. Moreover, my high school Calculus teacher Mr. Francis is truly my role model when it comes to teaching math. He would stay at school tutoring my classmates and I until 8pm at times and truly believed in me when I didn’t. He was someone who was there for his students no matter what and always told us how we were smarter than a calculator. Because of him, I make sure to have strong relationships with my students so that they know that I will always be there for them and even till this day, I continuously remind them that they are smarter than a calculator.