I began teaching roughly 10 years ago. With nothing more than a teaching certification and a lot of ganas or desire to be successful, I was hired at César Chávez High School. At the end of the interview, I remember the principal telling me that I had answered every single question incorrectly, but that he saw potential in me and was willing to give me a chance. One of the questions he asked me was if I wanted the students to like me. I was quick to respond — no. I was there to teach students, not to be their friend. Boy, have I come a long way!
I received my Bachelors of Arts in Communications with a minor in Spanish from the Sul Ross State University. Even with a degree, I was still unsure of what I wanted to be when I grew up but I realized I liked to work and be around students. A year later, I was at the University of Mississippi earning my certification as a Spanish teacher. While working at Chávez, I also enrolled at Arizona State University and ended up completing my Masters in Secondary Education and most recently my Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration, where I conducted a study highlighting the challenges of five DREAMers and strategies they used to overcome those challenges. As the daughter of immigrants, I am aware of the sacrifices and contributions of immigrants.
I am now part of the 1% of the world with a doctorate degree. I am part of the .5% because I am Mexican-American, a woman, and also a single mom. In addition, I am proud to represent the 8% of Latina teachers in the nation. I’m just an example of what you can achieve if you really have the ganas.
Ask me now: Do you want your students to like you? Absolutely! The one piece of advice that I would give to new teachers is to teach with corazón because once you win the students’ hearts, you can equip their brain with vast knowledge. Relationships are everything. They need to know you care. For me, every year, my goal by the end of the first week is to learn every single one of my students’ names. Model the behavior you expect from the students and lastly, find mentors or people that will listen to you, keep you grounded, inspired, and help you keep perspective on what is important in life.
I strive to develop leaders that are critical thinkers and problem solvers who develop a sense of responsibility to change their own lives and that of their families and communities. I teach because it’s the best way to affect social change. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing student transformations in and out of the classroom. I hope that when they leave my classroom every day, they know that I care and that they matter. Teach and reach out with corazón and passion; the possibilities are endless!
Angela A. Palacios, Ed.D is a Spanish High School Teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District at South Mountain High School.