At the end of my junior year, I was expecting my daughter Alyssa, who was born right before my senior year started. It was a time of struggle.
Ever since third grade, my dream had been to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Throughout my life, I’ve had teachers who served as parents, mentors, counselors and strong role models. I was fortunate to attend Leadership Public Schools (LPS) Richmond, a charter school that is deeply committed and smart about ensuring that students from historically underrepresented group make it to college and thrive.
And I was now at yet another turning point on the journey to college. Accomplishment in the midst of struggle has been my life’s work. At that moment, I did not know how the future would unfold for me.
But when Gautam Thapar, my Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher, called to let me know I had earned the first 5 on the AP exam of any student in the history of our high school, that was the moment that reminded me I am capable. I knew I was going to succeed.
When Mr. Thapar started working at my high school, no one in the history of our school had passed the AP U.S. History exam. As a class and really, as a team, we set out to make that a reality. We came in on weekends and school holidays and made it our mission to ensure our success on that exam, competing with students from wealthy communities nearby.
I Achieved My College Dream; Now I’m Living My Passion to Teach
That call from Mr. Thapar was also the moment that made me want to become a teacher.
Teachers are a source of confidence for students. Teachers have the power to motivate students and help them realize their full potential. Mr. Thapar had done that for me. Now I wanted to pay it forward to students from my community, many of whom lack that confidence and limit their options as a result.
I achieved my dream and graduated from Cal Berkeley in 2017. After graduation, I chose to join Teach For America and return to the classroom as a teacher at my high school, LPS Richmond. I am not using my time in the classroom as a stepping stone for something else. Teaching has become my life and my passion.
My first year of teaching is now coming to a close. When the going got rough, the deep love for my community and respect for the people within it—most importantly, my 150 amazing sophomore English students—was what motivated and inspired me to push through. And I wouldn’t be where I am without the example and support of my colleagues, some of whom were my own teachers not so long ago.
Back when I was student, sitting in the same seats my own students now fill, I thought my teachers were perfect humans who had it entirely together. From many conversations with the same teachers in my adult life, I know that conception wasn’t entirely accurate.
Without Them, I Wouldn’t Have Exemplars of Strong Teaching
My teachers were stressed and overwhelmed, both feelings I have experienced constantly throughout my first year of teaching. However, my teachers were also holding us to the highest expectations and providing the accurate supports to ensure our academic success, which I also try to replicate with my students every single day in the classroom.
My teachers taught from the heart and managed to show me and my classmates the respect and love we needed as young children and teenagers.
Without them, I wouldn’t have exemplars of what strong teaching is. Without them, I wouldn’t have had such amazing educators coming to visit my classroom and observe my work with students.
Without a doubt, the first year of teaching is the hardest to overcome. I want to thank my teachers for inspiring me as I continue my career in the classroom.