Oakland Unity High School

Grade & Subject: 9th Grade- Biology
Stanford University: BA/BS- Human Biology: Youth Development,
MA/MS, Secondary Education, Science Curriculum and Instruction
Single Subject California Teaching Credential

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I credit my father for instilling in me a very high regard for education. In his pursuit to escape the racial and wealth disparities that plagued the Dominican Republic, he permanently moved us to New Orleans when I was nine years old. I was enrolled in private school and most of my friends were wealthy and white. Soon, I began to notice the obvious segregation of wealth and race between my school and the public schools. This experience shed light on the shameful link between socioeconomic status and education that burdens our country, and I started thinking about the roles of teachers in achieving social parity and developing youth resiliency.

Academically, it was Ms. Gordon, my 11th grade AP English teacher, who first taught me about intrinsic motivation. It was not until then that I began to earn grades for myself––rather than for my parents or teachers. Ms. Gordon ingrained in me that I should strive for excellence even though it may seem that I would never reach it. She believed that anyone can learn and that everyone deserves to learn––beliefs I have carried with me into my teaching. My students feel challenged, but even more importantly, they feel comfortable to approach and tackle those challenges. I work every day to ensure that they are motivated to succeed from within and not from extrinsic factors. Ms. Gordon taught me to never stop expanding and to never stop learning from my students.

I come to work each day eager to build genuine relationships with my students. My students often reflect that they feel that I truly care about them and that they feel comfortable and safe in my classroom. It is remarkable to me that simply showing a student that you care about who they are as a person can greatly empower them to succeed and foster their sense of belonging in their community.

There is so much to be hopeful about the 510 community. I have seen Oakland rise up and advocate for its public education students––both young people and adults alike are not just hoping for change, they are demanding and creating change. I believe Oakland has the power to be a model for other cities in reinvigorating and rethinking public education.