Aspire Monarch Academy

Grade: 2nd Grade
University of the Pacific– MA
Dartmouth College– BA

The moment I knew I wanted to teach came upon me suddenly. It was late, past midnight, but the streets were packed. Jerusalem was alive as it is only during a holiday. I had never seen Jerusalem this way; I had never seen it at all. “Jerusalem is your city. Welcome home,” a young Israeli whispered to me amongst the chaos. It felt good to be immediately accepted, yet I was unsettled by being welcomed unconditionally for being Jewish. At the age of 17, I knew this young man was unlikely to welcome a Palestinian, even one whose family had roots in the city. It was then that I knew I wanted to be an educator. I realized that for the world to become more peaceful, respect and dignity must be taught from an early age.

I spent my first year teaching at the Ramallah Friends School in Ramallah, Palestine. I had several students, all from middle-upper class families, tell me about the fear they felt when Israeli soldiers shot tear-gas canisters at their cars. I felt helpless at the thought of armed groups harming my students. Upon arriving in Oakland, I continued to feel helpless to protect my students against violence, poverty, and structural racism.

In my Oakland classroom, we talk frequently about race, justice, and activism. My second-graders discuss historic injustice and identify ongoing injustice in their own communities. They write letters to people in power, seeking to have their eight-year-old voices heard. I no longer feel helpless because I am confident that my students are developing the tools they need to be assertive in the face of injustice. Do I have confidence in an eight-year-old? I sure do!

Like all teachers, I teach for my students. I teach so that they can learn dignity, respect, and empowerment. But I also teach for me. I teach because leading student learning is a puzzle that I can get better at but that I must face every day. I teach because I want my students to know how they can make change– whether the world is ready or not! I teach because I never want to stop learning.