How long have you taught with Reach for Excellence? I first started working with Reach for Excellence as a college intern during the summer of 2012. After graduating college and moving back to Georgia in the fall of 2015, I re-joined the team as a Saturday teacher and Summer Session teacher. I have been teaching on Saturdays and during the summers with Reach ever since 2015! Now that I live in Athens, the commute is a bit long, but getting to work with our scholars makes it more than worth the drive.
What do you teach? Reach has given me the chance to teach both Social Studies and Language Arts for our 6th and 7th grade scholars. As I am a Spanish teacher ¨by day¨ (or, rather, during the Monday-Friday school week), all of my courses at Reach tie back into Latino history, literature, and culture.
Where did you go to school? I went to Marist for high school; attended Davidson College for my BA in Spanish and Education; and attended the University of Georgia for my MA in Spanish Literature. My Georgia Professional Educator certification fields are in Spanish (preK-12th), and ESOL (English as a Second Language, preK-12th).
Would you describe yourself as a good student in middle school, high school, or college? I would describe myself as always having been a very eager bookworm, even if I was not always a good student. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to read EVERYTHING, from cereal boxes to newspapers to novels and textbooks. In middle school, my lowest grade was in PE, because I would sneak over to the bleachers and read books rather than participating in the games. In high school, I would even read my history textbooks for fun, sneaking my lunch into the library so that I could eat and read in peace! So, while I have always found classes relating to STEM to be more challenging, as long as the class incorporated reading, I was happy to be in the course and would work hard.
What was your favorite book, music, or movie when you were in middle school? Oh my gosh–so many books! The Harry Potter series was most likely my favorite all throughout elementary school and middle school. My dad listened to a lot of country music and 70´s rock when I was growing up, so that would probably have been my favorite music at the time.
Why did you choose to teach with Reach for Excellence? It is impossible to find a more motivated, more engaging group of students than those who join Reach for Excellence. Without exception, the students that we have the chance to support in this program are on fire to make the world a better place. They are eager, passionate, and extremely talented in a wide variety of ways. I tell my students this as much as I can, and I absolutely mean it, that it gives me hope for the future to know that they will be the ones ¨running the show¨ in a few years time!
Tell us about your teaching philosophy… Students learn through doing and experiencing, and so, with that in mind, I endeavor to incorporate many project-based and experiential learning opportunities for my students. I also believe that learning should be fun, and work to incorporate games and activities that, while challenging cognitively, can also be enjoyable and team-building opportunities for our students. Social Studies and ELA are both content areas in which there can be many ¨right answers,¨ and so my teaching in this areas is very dialogue-heavy with students, seeking to encourage their own development of their own reasoning and perspectives, and how they share their worldviews with others verbally and in writing, but can also appreciate the nuances and validity of other perspectives, too. In an effort to stay culturally relevant to students, we make frequent comparisons and connections between the content we might learn in a Reach classroom and their own experiences and cultures outside of the classroom.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching Middle School students? Middle schoolers always keep you on your toes as a teacher, which means that it is impossible to get bored while working with them. They are at such a liminal age, where they still love games and art activities that might be a bit more associated with elementary school, but also are keenly interested in developing their own perspectives as young adults on the world around them. As a teacher, this means that my own perspectives and practices are constantly challenged and changing by my students, shaping and pushing me to become a more effective teacher (and hopefully, a better human being, too!)
What is your favorite Reach for Excellence memory? The very first summer that I interned with Reach was also the summer that ¨Call Me Maybe!¨ was popular on the radio. I remember that on every bus ride for field trips that we took with the scholars that summer, they would all sing along again…and again…and again…with Carly Rae Jepson´s song! No matter how many times they played it, the enthusiasm for it never died down. To this day, whenever I hear ¨Call Me Maybe!¨ I think of the Reach scholars that I had the chance to work with during the summer of 2012. Those were the students who really first convinced me that I wanted to become a teacher after I finished college.
What’s your claim to fame? My claim to fame at Reach is probably that I am a proud dog mama to three very spoiled dog babies! The three of them have loved digital learning, because they can join in on Google Meet calls and ¨say hi¨ to the students. They´ve also loved ¨helping¨ be taste-testers with the ¡Cocina conmigo! cooking videos I have prepared in Spanish for my Reach scholars this summer.