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Why I Teach

Why do I teach?

I teach because it is a privilege.

It was a privilege when I started as a fourth-grade teacher 12 years ago at Mateo Sheedy. It was a privilege to be a part of the founding Rocketship Fuerza team ten years ago as a school leader. It is a privilege as I assumed my new role as VP of Schools this year. And this past June, I had the privilege of witnessing a full-circle moment that many of us as educators dream about. Our first class of graduating 5th graders from Fuerza is now graduating high school and we had the opportunity to welcome them back for one more Launch.

I stood in the middle of the blacktop like I had done every morning hundreds of times surrounded by a purple sea of 600 Rocketeers on all sides. Graduation music started to play, and every single head turned towards the end of the blacktop. A procession of former and forever college-bound Rocketeers in their high school graduation caps and gowns started walking down the path between the launch lines. As they walked across, school leaders announced the schools they would be going to in the fall. Fresno State. USC. Santa Clara University. Our very own Rocketeers are going to the same colleges whose flags adorn the Fuerza courtyard. The same colleges we told our Rocketeers years ago that they would go to one day.

Nothing was more gratifying than seeing our young Rocketeers literally look up in awe at the Rocketeers that came before them, who once stood on the very same launch lines, and who now were heading on to new adventures. Rocketeers like Daniela, the third grader who always made it a point to welcome every new student who came to Fuerza and is now on a new journey to become Daniela the neurologist at San Jose State University. Rocketeers like Aldair, the fourth grader who was never afraid to take risks and is now on a journey to become Aldair the economist at the University of Southern California. Rocketeers like Cuitlahuac, the fifth grader who always had 1000 questions and never took no for an answer, who is now on his way to becoming Cuitlahuac the computer scientist at Santa Clara University. Current Rocketeers are seeing teenagers who look just like them achieving the milestones their own teachers tell them they can reach, too.

While we all stood under the bright East San Jose sun, current and founding families all around watching, I felt a renewed sense of hope – that we ARE closing the achievement gap. We ARE proving what’s possible for ALL of our Rocketeers. We did it with these kids, and every year, we prepare hundreds more to follow in their footsteps. Overwhelming appreciation washed over me as Launch crescendoed with all of our Rocketeers, founding and present, joining together for our creed – the same creed we proudly proclaimed 10 years ago. With confidence and ganas.

As I visit our schools and talk to all our educators and leaders, I see the journeys they are on – ones that resemble my own. I know they will have their moment in the sun where everything comes together and where it all makes sense, and they realize every choice they may made, every long day lesson planning after class, every home visit, every do-it-again was worth it. I know how hard it is because not so long ago, I was there where they are right now.

Our educators and leaders will get to see the Rocketeers who walk through their classroom doors realize their potential. They will have the joy of seeing them graduate across many stages and they will have the joy of celebrating with their families. In short, our educators will see our Rocketeers do what they didn’t think was possible but we helped make a reality.

In partnership with our families, we are rewriting the narrative about kids just like our Fuerza graduates, growing up in the neighborhoods that we have the honor of serving. In those moments this year when it gets hard, don’t forget why you do this work, and think about our Rocketeers – who they are, who they will be, and who they always have been.

Graduation is not an end, but a beginning. And as our Rocketeers graduate year after year, they will always be a part of our community no matter where they go, taking charge of their own learning and making us all proud. I am excited to elevate my impact as Rocketship California’s new VP of Schools, continuing to watch our Rocketeers grow and flourish.

This is why I teach.

Published on September 18, 2023

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