10 Years at IslandWood: Becca Salzman

In August, TAF’s Fellows will return to the Martinez Fellowship’s annual three-day summer retreat where teachers of color receive professional development, community support, and participate in invigorating sessions. For the last 10 years, the retreat has been held at IslandWood, an environmental education center on Brainbridge Island, WA, and has become a tradition that our Fellows to look forward to.

To celebrate, we’re highlighting one Fellow from each of Martinez Fellowship’s ten cohorts.

Meet Becca Salzman of Cohort 5, a Special Education teacher at Nathan Hale High School of Seattle Public Schools.

TAF: What was one win or winning moment this past school year?

Becca: One win this year was actually getting coffee with a student who graduated last year as a 5th year senior. I was so anxious about her going to UW but she’s doing it; she has good supports in place, she’s managing her mental health and she’s enjoying herself – it is the best thing to see.

TAF: Why did you want to become a teacher, and why are you still a teacher?

Becca: I started coaching high school track and cross country after finishing undergrad – the kids were so sassy – I wanted to be around that kind of energy all the time.

Why are you still a teacher?

Becca: I still teach because of my 5 sobrinos (nephews): Victor, Jobany, Sergio, Jesus and Johnathan. The majority of them had IEPs (individual learning plans) in school and wrestled with academics and felt misunderstood by many of their teachers (but not all!) Teaching is challenging in so many ways, but I know if I can be that one teacher in a kid’s life, then it’s not for nothing.

TAF: What do you with the world knew about being a teacher of color?

Becca: It can be very isolating; we need more teachers of color – we make up such a small minority of teachers and, for me at least, that can be intimidating.

What is missing from public education today?

Resources. Adequate caseloads for school counselors (currently 1:400). Manageable class sizes for general education classes. Humane maternity and paternity leave. Ethnic Studies classes. Special ed classes where the caseload cap isn’t exceeded.

“Teaching can be challenging in so many ways, but I know if I can be that one teacher in a kid’s life, then it’s not for nothing.”

TAF’s Martinez Fellowship Program recruits and retains teachers of color in Washington State. In the last year its 151 Fellows impact over 14,000 students by providing representation and creating equitable academic environments.

By 2038, TAF plans to add over 2,400 teachers of color to the fellowship. Learn more about the Martinez Fellowship.

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