Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11 gets candid about why they teach

Recently, TAF inducted Cohort 11 to the Martinez Fellowship, signifying eleven years since the program was founded. The Fellowship aims to recruit and retain more teachers of color to Washington State public schools and is open to educators of color pursuing their Master’s in Education at one of TAF’s partner universities. After being selected through an application and interview process, Fellows receive early-career coaching, professional development through seminars and workshops, and an opportunity to use elements of the STEMbyTAF model. Additionally, Fellows attend a yearly three-day summer retreat at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, WA.

When it comes to providing support to teachers of color, sometimes questions arise around the need to provide attention to teachers of color. After all, aren’t all teachers in need of support? While it’s true that all teachers face some degree of challenges by choosing a career in education, the challenges for teachers of color present themselves in varying and often times unrecognizable ways.

Teachers of color often take on unassigned yet assumed roles because they are, well … teachers of color. From counselor to mediator to family liaison and more, teachers find themselves being a bridge of understanding. As one of the few educators of color in their school, it becomes almost a responsibility to act on behalf of students of color, they become the experts on handling certain issues and spokesperson when needed. For this reason, it is necessary for teachers to have access to a community of shared experiences, where their raw emotions, challenges, and triumphs can be shared.

We asked Cohort 11 a simple question: “What motivates you to teach?” Each Fellow offered different answers, but most were drawn from the experiences they endured as a person of color and wanting to make a difference. Read on for their responses.

Analilia Santacruz, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“During college I had the opportunity to work at a low-income preschool. There, I witnessed why access to quality education should be a universal right. Since then, I’ve worked in several capacities within education, but the most meaningful experiences are those accompanied by a connection I’m able to create with families as a whole. I sincerely believe ‘it takes a village’ to raise children and for that reason, I continue to seek growth within my practice.”

– Analilia Santacruz

“Growing up I was one of only a few students of color; I want to help start the change in schools that results in greater diversity, greater open-mindedness, and more opportunity. I want to help create a better world by guiding and educating future generations of all children. Children are the future that will one day lead us and make up the world we strive for today.”

– Anthony Mason

Anthony Mason, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Chance Las Dulces, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“Based on my experiences as a student and as an educator, I am motivated to make sure students of color are equipped to succeed. Students of color do not experience the same education system that white students do and this is unacceptable. I look forward to breaking down barriers and creating a more equitable education experience for students of color. ”

– Chance Las Dulce

“I have been very fortunate to have teachers, coaches, and other mentors throughout the years that have been very influential to me. I think it is important for kids to know that there is someone in their corner to see their potential. I love forming meaningful relationships and I would like to do that with my students and be there for them to encourage them to succeed.”

– Chynna Phan

Chynna Phan, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Denise Martinez, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“Growing up in Los Angeles, I was surrounded by teachers of color, however, all the curriculum was Euro-centric and didn’t reflect any of the students’ or community’s experiences and values. I got into education so I’d be able to provide students with a multicultural education”

– Denise Martinez

“What motivates me to teach is the desire to provide children with the self-confidence to learn and trust in themselves to succeed. More importantly to believe in their own abilities and dreams to succeed in whatever they set their minds to. I am simply motivated by the children honestly, and I hope I to instill a love and joy of learning for them to carry on through adulthood, just as I am sure to learn much from them too. One of my favorite quotes I read about from my grad program this past year, “Greatness in teaching engages students, interacts with them, draws energy and direction from them, and offers reasons to plunge into classroom life” (Ayers, “To Teach: A journey, in comics”, p. 97).”

– Divina Clark

Divina Clark, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Eduardo Torres, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“Working with teens and my own experience. I enjoy working with teens because they are funny and enjoy life in different ways. As a teen I didn’t have the best school experience because I didn’t speak the language and support. I want to become a teacher because I want all the students feel included.”

-Eduardo Torres

“Unlike many black students, my experiences in K-12 education was pretty favorable. I hope to be a role model and mentor to black students and other students of color as well as spark passion for learning in students.”

– Eunissa Satterwhite

Eunissa Satterwhite, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Gabriel Ramos, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“What motivates me to teach are the students. I like being an impact in students learning curve. I like working with kids because they keep me up to date in social media.”

–  Gabriel Ramos

“History motivates me to teach! The history of black people and how we have been denied education for generations. The history of schooling in America, the good and the harm it has done to various communities. I am motivated by helping people and wanting to help mold and education young minds.”

– Jalissa Jones

Jalissa Jones, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Jawad Frangieh, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“What motivates me to become a teacher is following in my father’s footsteps. A large part of my motivation lies in celebrating identity and promoting positive representations of Arabs while countering stereotypes and biases about Arabs and Arab-Americans. With so few Arab-American teacher in the United States, I am motivated to represent an underrepresented and misrepresented group of people.”

–  Jawad Frangieh

“What motivates me to teach is my love for children and being able to work with them. I want to be the teacher that I did not have when I was in elementary school. I want my future students to feel supported and understood.”

– Jessica Olivera-Barrgan

Jessica Olivera-Barragan, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Jin Lee, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“My primary motivation to teach is to make a lasting impact on at least one individual. I want to help students reach their potentials and allow them to thrive in whatever path they choose to take. I was once a student that did not excel in education and want to be an advocate for those who are unsure or believe they are unable, that they too have a purpose and the ability to succeed in whatever they desire.”

–  Jin Lee

“I was deemed the “exception” to Latinx students in every environment I was a part of. This was caused by America’s infatuation with individualism. My success and subsequent failures were deemed as my choice. It was in college where I gained deeper understanding of how education affects the trajectory of students, primarily students of color and low-income students. Being the only Latino in my Biology program proved why there needed to be more science teachers of color that are willing to create a classroom environement and a curriculum that reflects all students.”

– Jorge Moreno-Nuñez

Jorge Moreno-Nunez, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Kevin Dang, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“My main motivation to teach is that the community I grew up in really helped me to become the man I am today. I hope to give back to this community that fostered me and become a role model and positive force for future generations in that community. My dream is to return to my old high school, Federal Way High and teach mathematics. I want to teach mathematics because I feel it suffers the most from students believing they are not meant to do it or doomed to fail. But I know the educator is more important than the content itself.”

–  Kevin Dang

“I aspire to recognize, value, and celebrate and students’ identity, genius, language, etc. I plan on becoming an English Language Arts teacher in a public school. Growing up, I occasionally had a teacher who was reflective of the demographics in the classroom, particularly students of color. Thus, I want to be this reflection for my future students. Furthermore, I strive to be a teacher that is able to adequately serve them.”

– Mayra Cortes

Mayra Cortez, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Naveen Khan, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“I love to teach art because it is an inclusive subject and makes everyone including the teacher think creatively. Students who may be struggling elsewhere tend to have a safe and therapeutic place to self-reflect, analyze and discover their emotions. I enjoy the deep connections with my students as we come in dialogue about cultures, identities and the passions in their lives.”

–  Naveen Khan

“I’m a strong believer in early intervention and loving what you do. That is why I have a passion for Special Education. When I get to connect with students on a personal level it allows me to learn from them as well as teach them. I enjoy watching them make those connections and use what they’ve learned in their everyday lives. When they become passionate about learning this fuels my passion for teaching.”

– Sonny Foster

Sonny Foster, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Sonya Olsen, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“I love children, and knowing that my efforst serve to help them is very fulfilling to me. I want to teach Spanish because I particularly enjoy teenagers, and I would liketo try to make an impcat at a crucial stage in their lives.”

–  Sonya Olsen

“I think that I just genuinely enjoy seeing growth and improvement. My motivation to teach, specifically special education EBD, is in seeing students who may be going through similar experiences/feelings that I have previously went through. Knowing that I can apply some of my own experiences to help students undersnad how to cope or overcome their stuggles, is a service that I would like to provide.”

– Sydney Ha

Sydney Ha, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11
Vance Baker, Martinez Fellowship Cohort 11

“Teaching is not about leaning but about the relationships that we form with those that we are blessed to have among us. The opportunity to bring to life knowledge within someone, that did not know it was there. To stand before a class of students and be infused either their wanting to gain more than they could even imagine. That is what motivates me to want to teach.”

–  Vance Baker

“It takes a village to raise a child but for myself and others in school, a village can be your immediate family or even smaller. I have known of many kids who lost their lives because of this and remained unmourned by the community. Guiding youths with love, to live their most fulfilling lives, is what drives me to be teacher.”

– McKenzie Bolar

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“Helping and supporting students that no one else gets. Being that voice and resource those students need! Believing in the students that no one else believes in! Being that person that can relate, love, encourage, support and help a child succeed! Being that person to make that change and impact!”

–  Keisha Moore

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