This past school year, Alma Monsis was a first-year classroom teacher at Vallejo High School, part of Vallejo City Unified School District, teaching Spanish to students in ninth through twelfth grade. Previously a substitute teacher, the EdForce team helped her become a certified high school teacher and provided an instructional coach, Mrs. Alexandra Byers. As part of her support network, Alexandra collaborated with Alma over the last six months, and the duo represents a strong, idealistic teacher and coach relationship.
Alma says her first year of teaching was very rewarding, but also very challenging, and states that she not only needed academic support but emotional support. “I’m thankful that Alexandra was my mentor because she provided the support that I needed and was always available to discuss any issues I was having at school,” says Alma. “I could send her an email or text message at any time, and she was there for me. To every problem I had, she found a solution, and if that solution didn't work, she found another one.”
Alexandra also discussed her personal experiences working as a teacher, especially during her first couple of years, explaining that many people pursuing a teaching career go through the same processes to find his or her own style, helping Alma to relax. When additionally overwhelmed with the countless projects or tests to grade, she adds that Alexandra consistently acknowledged and respected her feelings.
Along with providing emotional support and personal experiences, Alexandra provided Alma with learning techniques. Never responsible for creating a lesson plan before, Alma was a little lost when starting her job as a Spanish teacher. Alexandra assisted her in making the first lesson plans and gave Alma her best advice to create more, which Alma implemented every day in the classroom. With Alexandra’s lesson plan template and tips in mind, it was easier for Alma to understand how to plan for the week.
With the help of her instructional coach, Alma was able to get into a routine throughout the school year. She assessed her students daily, using warms ups and exit tickets to check for understanding, and knew the importance of being a flexible teacher because all students learn differently. As her students were from different backgrounds, she was amazed to hear their personal stories, interests, and learning styles.
For example, some of her students were afraid to talk in front of the class, so small groups were often the best option. On the contrary, some of her students felt comfortable shouting out the correct answers during class discussions but would have trouble writing down the answers on paper. “These instances gave me an opportunity to learn from them,” Alma states.
Learning from her students contributed to her joy of teaching teenagers. Every day, she made sure to have a smile on her face and to greet her students, no matter what, because she says her students deserved it. She also acknowledges that for some of her students, high school was the only stable consistency in their life. Many came to her classroom daily to confide in her about their daily life, classes, and even topics as simple as favorite movies.
Alma’s goal all year was to show her students that she cared about each of them and to show each one that they were important and unique. “I was there to guide them because they are the future,” she says.
To help do this, she became more involved in the school community by becoming a leader of the Spanish Club. She felt her goals were met when a student came up to her on the last day of school and said, “Mrs. M, thank you for believing in me.” Alma described those words as priceless.