Teacher Profile

Valerie Douglass

“Change has to happen-the children are literally our future.”

Principal at Cornerstone Academy Preparatory School

 

1) Why did you pursue a career in education?

Over the course of my career my reasoning for pursuing education has changed. I initially just truly loved working with children. I knew I wanted to help them in any capacity I could. I naturally built relationships with children and knew how to speak with and work with them. Over time though, my passion for making a difference in the world of education grew. The more and more I understand about the state of the country’s education system the more I am determined to see change. I stepped into leadership because educators need support in order to provide the best education for students. I wanted to make sure I spread my net wide and reach as many students in shortest amount of time as possible. Change has to happen– the children are literally our future.

2) What are you currently working on?

With my team, I am currently working to improve the practice of analyzing data to strategically inform planning and instruction for our subgroups (e.g. ELLs, SPED, top and bottom quartiles). We are also expanding to 7th and 8th grade, so preparing and planning for this roll-out is crucial.

3) What has been a key learning for you as a Reach ILA participant?

It is challenging to choose just one key learning from my time at Reach. I have certainly learned so many things of the course of the three years. If I have to focus on one, I think taking an action research mindset as a leader helps me specifically when dealing with large whole school and organizational challenges as well as day-to-day situations.

4) How has Reach supported your growth and development as an Educational Professional?

The regular and timely coaching from the Reach instructors has been key to my growth and success as a leader. The course sessions have also been a great balance of information and practice. Reach strategically thinks about ways to make the learning come to life, which then becomes imprinted in our minds.

5) What advice do you have for new Teachers?

Stop and think about what’s at the root of a problem, breathe, take time for yourself, and always come back to why you are doing this work.


Rosalinda Rocha

Rosie Rocha is currently a 6th grade teacher resident at Alpha Blanca Alvarado Middle School in San Jose. She is teaching a self-contained classroom (all subjects). She also provides targeted language interventions to English Language Learners in grades 6-8. Previously, she was a City Year Corps Member in Boston, MA serving in a Sheltered English Instruction 3rd grade classroom. Next year, she will be teaching 6th grade English Language Arts and History.

1) School at which you’re employed?

Alpha Blanca Alvarado Middle School

1) Why did you pursue a career in education?

I grew up in a small farm town where the large majority of the population were Latinos, like myself. However, even though most of the students at the schools I attended were Latinos, the teachers were not. Throughout my education, I lacked that cultural connection. I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to reflect the population I teach. I wanted students and their parents to feel like school is a place where their culture and language is valued and not less than. My goal is to ensure that all of my students have access to a quality education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status.

2) What inspires you to show up for your teachers and students?

The majority of my students live in East San Jose, which is not the most affluent part of the city. Because we do not provide transportation, my students have to walk to school, take the bus, or (rarely) get a ride from their parents. Many of them have to trek miles every day, but they show up. And if they show up, so will I. My students have shown great commitment to their education, regardless of the assumptions people may make of them. Their investment motivates me to give them the same commitment they’ve given me.

3) What has been a key learning for you as a Reach Intern participant?

As a Reach Intern participant, I’ve learned to always assume best intent. We all have different motivations and aspirations when it comes to teaching and at times we may feel skeptical about the decisions others may make, however, it is important to always remember that we are all here to serve students. I’ve learned that keeping the focus on ensuring all of our students receive an excellent education and removing any biases we may have will make our experience, and our students’, much more fruitful.

4) How has Reach supported your growth and development as a Teacher?

Much of my growth and development is owed to my coach, Andrea Yee. Because we have such a small cohort, she has been able to really get to know me. Despite her many years of experience, she treats me like an individual and focuses on supporting me without comparing me to others. She is extremely responsive and consistently provides tangible advice. She has helped me learn how to continuously improve and strive for greatness. I am very thankful that she never lets me settle and always pushes me to do better.

5) What advice do you have for new Teachers?

We often hear that teaching is a thankless job, and perhaps some of us may feel that is true. However, as soon as you step into the classroom and are besieged by bright young faces, you will realize why you do the work that you do. Not for the money or bragging rights, but for students who desperately need someone to not only believe in them, but help them believe in themselves.


Yolanda Cater

Yolanda Cater is currently the Literacy Coach-TSA at La Escuelita Elementary School in Oakland. She has been coaching since 2004 and at La Escuelita for two years. Previously she was a 1st grade bilingual teacher, ELD and Spanish Language Arts Trainer in the Oakland Unified School District. She is in the first year of the Instructional Leadership Academy.

1) Why did you pursue a career in education?

I loved reading as a child and always enjoyed school.  A few years after graduating from UC Berkeley with a BA I initially thought I would be a Spanish teacher but was redirected to elementary education. I was a bilingual teacher for 15 years before I became a reading coach.  I knew in my neighborhood that the same student population also attended catholic school as I did.  It was my hope to provide public school students with educational experiences that were as good or better than that of their catholic school peers. I believe that ours students lack opportunity not ability and it is our responsibility to educate them so they reach their highest potential.

2) What inspires you to show up for your teachers and students?

First and foremost the students, I love seeing students grow in their learning and become their true selves.  I enjoy working with teachers in improving their instructional practice and celebrating their successes. I am a life-long learner and I learn from teachers and students.

3) What has been a key learning for you as a Reach ILA participant?

It is important to keep the focus on the students. It can be challenging working with adults and we may need to differentiate how we support them to get the results we desire.  Improving student achievement at the heart of our work.

4) How has Reach supported your growth and development as an Educational Leader?

It is important to have a growth mindset and be open to learning from others.  We always have new opportunities to learn and we should be continually refining our practice in the pursuit of improving student achievement. Working with my coach, Jessica Evans, has been extremely beneficial. During our sessions I learn how to improve my coaching and leadership skills. Since my coursework is job-embedded I am able to use what I have learned authentically.  Additionally, I am in a cohort of amazing educators.  I learn from them as well.  Working with a cohort gives additional support and exposure to different perspectives on educational issues. We have a safe and supportive space to share and learn together. It also stresses the importance that adult learners should work together to grow in their practice. We are modeling what we want to see in our schools to support student and adult learning.

5) What advice do you have for new Educational Leader?

It is important to have a growth mindset and be open to learning from others.  We always have new opportunities to learn and we should be continually refining our practice in the pursuit of improving student achievement.


Leah M. Herrera

Leah M. Herrera is the Math Coach and Department Lead at Arise High School in Oakland. She has taught math at the secondary level for five years and is currently completing her second year serving as a BTSA coach.

1) Name

Leah M. Herrera

2) Number of years teaching

I have taught math at the secondary level for five years.

3) Number of years serving as a BTSA coach

This is my second year serving as a BTSA coach.

4) What has been a key learning for you as a BTSA coach?

Just as teaching is an art so is instructional coaching. Because coaches do not have an evaluative role, I have learned my primary job is to help teachers be reflective with regard to particular areas of focus, rather than tell them what they are doing right or wrong. I would say that the other key learning I have is to really try to understand the person you are coaching. Teaching is complex and teachers are a diverse lot; if I don’t understand what motivates the person I am working with, then I won’t be able to coach them through the reflective process.

5) How has Reach supported your growth and development as a coach?

Reach holds coaching forums for their BTSA coaches. These are opportunities for us to gain new skills and practice them with one another. In addition to professional development, all of the Reach staff are extremely accessible and are available to answer questions from which forms do we need to fill out, to helping us think through a particular dilemma.