10 Years at IslandWood: Pedro Arellano-Camarena

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 Pedro Arellano-Camarena of Cohort 6, an AP Calculus teacher at Evergreen High School of Highline Public Schools.

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

Pedro: A winning moment this past year was a simple comment a student made to me at the end of the year. He came up toward the end of the year and said, “Mr. AC, thank you for making the classroom feel welcomed and fun for everyone. I really enjoyed the journey.”

When you really think about it, most of our kids will probably forget the majority of the content we teach them years from now. What they will never forget is how you and other students treated them and how they felt walking into class everyday. It’s really easy to get caught up in the standardized tests of the world, SBA, and all these pressures to have students learn the content.

While it’s important to do that, my winning moment is that focusing more on having students feel cared for will have a much more lasting impact in their life.


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

Pedro: Long story short, I never thought I would become a teacher. I just wanted to challenge myself in mathematics because it was one of my worst subjects. I took Algebra 2 three consecutive times from my junior, senior and 1st course at Green River Community College. I begin to take more advanced courses and begin to love the subject. I got the opportunity to teach for a day at Mariner High School and it was one of the most exciting feelings I have ever had. From that moment, I embarked on becoming a teacher.

I am still a teacher because I love working with students. Moreover, I am teaching in the community I grew up in. it’s a special feeling to go back to my neighborhood and give back. I also believe it’s important for students to see teachers that look like them and have experienced similar struggles.

 

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

Pedro: I am not 100% sure. I’ll have to come back to this!


What is missing from public education today?

Pedro: I believe there is still a lack of teacher involvement in important educational decisions. While we will all have different opinions on different subjects, teachers voices are generally left out. For example, if you ask most teachers, I would probably say with confidence that most agree that standardized tests as a graduation requirement in not okay for a multitude of reasons. I am not saying every district or school does this, but I believe that teachers should be the in the forefront of feedback for our education system.

”¬†When you really think about it, most of our kids will probably forget the majority of the content we teach them years from now. What they will never forget is how you and other students treated them and how they felt walking into class everyday.”

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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