#LatinosTeach, Recognizing Angelina Sáenz


Angelina Sáenz, M.Ed. piloted the acclaimed Aldama Elementary Dual Language program in Northeast LA in 2008 and served as the lead teacher of the program from 2009-2013. She has worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District for fifteen years. She provides school based support in elementary writing as a Teacher Consultant and fellow of the UCLA Writing Project. She is a grant writer who has secured more than $100,000 in grant money for teachers at Aldama. Voted the “Highland Park-Mt. Washington Person of the Year of 2012” she also received the 2014 La Opinion Exceptional Woman Award for her work in Education. Saenz was a finalist for the Commitment to Excellence Award as a Champion of Change with President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. She served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council and has worked on educational policy as a Teach Plus Fellow. She is a mother of two boys who are LAUSD students at Aldama Elementary as well. She is a poet who has been published in university journals and online. She graduated from Occidental College in 1998, with a B.A. in Theater and Anthropology and received her Master’s in Education in 2001 from Claremont Graduate University.

Why do you teach?  I teach because I am deeply invested in the future of the next generation of stewards of this country and planet. I believe that the 180 days of life that students spend in my class can impact and forever change their lives in a positive way, so that they will remember a positive educational experience that affirmed their humanity and was a valuable use of their time.

What do you love about teaching?  What I love about teaching is the number of families and children that I am able to have a positive effect on. After fifteen years of teaching, I can say that I have spent time with hundreds of families, affirming their cultural and linguistic identities, encouraging them to use the path of education to improve their lives and the lives of their children, and to encourage them to advocate for their needs and access to opportunities. I cannot think of a career that would provide me with this level of access to the daily lives of ordinary people.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?  A teacher who had a tremendous and long-lasting influence in my life was during my undergrad years at Occidental College. His name is Jamie Angell, and he supported me through the difficult transition of coming from a poverty-stricken, violent and unstable community, to the privileged campus of Occidental. Mr. Angell helped me to cope with the transition, sharing his own difficult experiences of being a working-class student at an Ivy League university, encouraging me to do well in school, for the sake of my community and my ancestors, and providing me with the emotional and academic skills to navigate a university campus dominated by wealth and rigorous academic standards. I do believe that a big reason that I graduated from Occidental College is because of the faithful friendship and encouragement of Mr. Angell.