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by Tony Moore
Teaching is one of those jobs that people might refer to as thankless. But in 2016 Michelle Sánchez ’11, a teacher at Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School in Los Angeles, got a big thank you for her work from no less than the Obama administration, under the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The initiative showcases educators who strengthen the Latino educational landscape and explores systematic ways to enhance education for Hispanic Americans. And Sánchez fits the bill to perfection.
“Teaching is a beautiful profession,” she says. “What excites me most is seeing the progress of a student from the beginning of the year to the end—those ‘ah ha’ revelations that occur throughout the year for kids. Or when you know that a student is proud of their work or has overcome a personal obstacle—those are the exciting parts. Working with kids always keeps you on your toes; they keep me in check and inspire me to be my best self.”
The daughter of Mexican and Costa Rican immigrant parents, Sanchez teaches English, history, special education, technology and English as a second language and coaches track and cross country. “You’d think teachers would get tired, but I don’t feel exhausted,” she says. “The minute kids walk into my classroom, I get a burst of energy and am ready to go.”
The American studies major has found that her Spanish minor comes in handy working every day on behalf of her Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking students and their families, who often have greater obstacles to overcome than the next history quiz.
“What has been challenging is knowing that students have had to experience hunger or are sleep deprived because they had to commute across the city from a new shelter,” Sanchez says. “Sometimes I don’t have words to share with them—all I can do is honor their space and give them that extra time that they need. The best that I can do is give it my all—to help break these cycles so kids can reach their potential. Every student deserves the best education, no matter their circumstances.”
Published March 30, 2017