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Daniella Martinez, Interventionist at Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy
“I’m excited to share that your daughter is reading at a 6th-grade level. Congratulations!” That’s the phone call from Miss B-T that brought my parents to tears when I was in 5th grade at Rocketship Sí Se Puede. You see, as someone who went undiagnosed with a learning difference for years in a public district school before my mom transferred me to Rocketship, I didn’t think it was possible. Not only was I finally able to read at grade level, but I was achieving at levels far beyond anyone ever imagined. And today, I’ve not only achieved my family’s dream of me graduating from college, but I’m fulfilling my own dream of becoming a teacher at Rocketship Si Se Puede.
When I started Rocketship in the middle of 3rd grade, I was barely reading at a 1st-grade reading level. I come from a big family with five older brothers and one younger sister. None of my brothers graduated with their high school diplomas on time, let alone went to college. And I hated school. Since kindergarten, school was never a place of community and love or a safe space to learn and make mistakes. My teachers, frustrated by my inability to grasp the subject matter, would make me miss recess or lunch as punishment. If I wasn’t able to finish the homework from the night before, I would get in trouble. I didn’t know why school was so much harder for me than other kids, or why I just couldn’t understand what we were learning. But my confidence as a young, vulnerable girl was completely broken.
But at Rocketship, my teachers became my cheerleaders. They advocated for me, and they made space for my parents to be deeply involved in my learning. It was an adjustment at first. School still felt so scary for me and now I had two different teachers instead of just one. So my principal paired me with another student in all of my classes to give me the moral support I needed to get through my day. And I fondly remember Miss Buri, my math teacher. She could see beyond my shy and quiet exterior and see the hurt I was feeling on the inside. Every single day, she would have me come to her desk in class and practice positive affirmations with me to build my confidence. She knew that in order for me to learn, I had to believe in myself in the same way she already believed in me. To this day, I carry this daily practice with me. It’s helped me get through a lot of hard days in middle school, high school, and college.
My Rocketship teachers truly cared about me – they were the ones who saw how much I was struggling and decided to get me evaluated. When my parents and I found out I have a learning difference, everything came together. I finally understood why I was struggling so hard – I wasn’t receiving the accommodations or support I needed to unleash my full potential. My diagnosis changed the trajectory of my life. I went from struggling with my letters to learning about college and having the confidence and opportunity to get there. I was still working hard, but I was finally able to taste the fruits of my labor.
That’s why I always knew I needed to come back to Rocketship Sí Se Puede to advocate for the young brown girls just like me – who grew up in east San Jose on the corner of Capitol and Jackson, who are struggling with school, and who need someone to fight for them just like my teachers fought for me. I want to be a role model for students who may have never had an educator who looks like them in the classroom, showing them that it is possible for them to get to where I am today. As an interventionist, I am able to positively impact the lives of general education and special education students alike, gaining the experience that will benefit me as I work on becoming a credentialed teacher. This school year has been so exciting already, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring. I feel like I am back home with my Sí Se Puede family.
Published on September 21, 2023