A Dream Realized: From Undocumented to Graduate to Teacher, What I Learned at Rocketship Discovery Prep

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by Angelica Del Rio
First Grade Literacy Teacher, Rocketship Discovery Prep
 

I never thought I’d get here. I never thought I’d be legally allowed to stay in this country, be a college graduate, or be a teacher. Coming originally from Tijuana, Mexico, when I was one year old, my family immigrated to San Jose.  We scraped by those first few years. We crammed eight people into a two bedroom apartment. My father was always working, trying to keep food on the table and saving up so we could move into our own home. When I turned five, my dad bought our first house.

I started school that same year. I went to a nearby school in the neighborhood. It was great and I got good grades. But everything changed when I got to middle school. My parents were no longer able to help me with my homework but they still expected me to earn straight A’s. My dad would tell me “You only have one job. Your job is to go to school and get good grades. My job is to work to give you food and shelter so you can bring those excellent grades home.” I was so scared to disappoint my family. I did not know how to study, so I memorized everything by writing it down on a paper. I would read what I wrote to myself and I would go to sleep repeating what I had written from my books. My grades improved but I’m not sure I really learned much in middle school. In high school, things got a little better. I did well in math and science, but I hated English. I understand the pain that many of my students have when they are not able to write or say something grammatically correct in English.

Sparking Creative Classroom Solutions Through Teacher Innovation

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by Beyond Editorial Staff

Helping fourth graders access and understand the news. Increasing personalization in kinder STEM classes. These are just some examples of how our creative Rocketship teachers used funds they won in our first ever round of ‘Innovation Grants.’ This grant, sponsored by the Achievement and Operations Teams, awarded 5 different grants to help Rocketship staff innovate and solve important challenges that impact our Rocketeers. The grants were aimed at projects that identify specific, “bite-size” issues and include innovative and scalable solutions to solving the issues. 12 staff members, from teachers to enrichment coordinators to office managers, applied for this inaugural round of funding.  Here are some examples of the winners…

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‘We’re With You’: Fourth Graders Learn Empathy Through Art

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by Briana Burtsell, Rocketship United Academy Art Enrichment Coordinator and Visual Art Instructor

Walking into the lobby of the Nashville Ronald McDonald House you know immediately that this is a welcoming place for kids. Brightly colored walls, comfortable seating, beautiful art, and a big kids play area fill the space. The problem is that families staying at the Ronald McDonald House spend most of their days in the hospital with their child and their nights in the individual family rooms, not in the lobby. The family rooms have not been brightened and decorated like the rest of the house, but instead remain grey and bare. Continue reading

March Math Madness

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by Heidy Shinn

Prinipal, Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy

 “Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics.” – Dean Schlicter

When it comes to STEM education, the case for curiosity and exploration often gets lost in the traditional classroom. At Rocketship we believe in encouraging our student’s appetite for learning by igniting their curiosity and allowing them to experience learning. Last month for example, Rocketeers at Si Se Puede Academy found the connection between math and basketball during the NCAA March Madness tournament as they were transformed into court-side statisticians at the SAP Center in San Jose.

We caught up with Si Se Puede Principal Heidy Shin to find out more about this March Math Madness. Check out her story below. 

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Gratitude is a Choice We Make Every Day

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by Tatum Schultz
Third Grade STEM Teacher, Rocketship United Academy

Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you.” Gratitude is an inherent quality that resides deep within each one of us. It is triggered by different events and crosses the boundaries of race, age, and gender. Gratitude comes from the heart. It is an acknowledgment of the positive things that we feel in our soul. When we give gratitude, we give a gift freely and unearned.img_9471

At Rocketship United Academy, our leaders, teachers, and support staff are dedicated to sharing gratitude. Within our halls a positive culture thrives. Respect, responsibility, empathy, and persistence are our core values we believe in. We build on our core values and allow our Rocketeers to grow in a community that shares a desire to exceed expectations.

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Rising Into School Leadership

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by Michelle Chung Ng
Assistant Principal, Rising Stars Academy

I can still remember the day my coach suggested I should apply to be in Rocketship’s Rising Leaders program. I was excited by the challenge and the opportunity to grow professionally. As a member of the Rising Leaders cohort 15-16, I have grown professionally by being honest about my development areas, being pushed out of my comfort zone and sharing openly with those in my cohort. Sitting in a room with other highly effective teachers who want to grow and learn as a professional inspires me.

Rising Leaders is a leadership development program that is offered to teachers at Rocketship who are interested in growing their adult management skills and have taught for more than two years. The program is designed both for teachers who want to grow their leadership in the classroom or begin the transition into school leadership. We meet once a month with our cohort, which is composed of about 20 teachers across the network.

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United We Learn

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by Jason Egly
Teacher, Rocketship United Academy

Egypt

Kenya

Somalia

Mexico

Honduras

El Salvador

Venezuela

Puerto Rico

USA

Is this about the Olympics?

No. It’s a list of the homelands proudly represented by the students in my two fourth grade Humanities classes at Rocketship United Academy (RUA) in Nashville. Continue reading

Reconstructing Beauty: Empowering Our Girls for a Better Future

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by LaToya Fernandez
Teacher, Rocketship Discovery Prep

Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut I learned the value of education early on. My mother was a workaholic providing for a family of seven and carried herself with strength and poise. Life at home was difficult at times, so I became immersed in school and extracurricular activities. Though involved in many organizations at school, I was still harassed for being African American, athletic, religious and just for being a girl. I was constantly teased about my hair. There were times in high school where I felt insecure about my physical appearance and capabilities. This motivated me to find my inner strength. I needed to become the Queen I was encouraging my friends to be.

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This Nashville Teacher and Dad Is Living Proof of the Importance of School Choice

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by BEYOND Editorial Team, Bay Area

In May, Education Post featured the story of one of our new Rocketeers, Jason Egly. Jason has been a teacher for 6 years and starting next month will teach at Rocketship United Academy in Nashville. But Jason is not just an educator, he is a parent of three kids in public school.

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5 Books for Boosting Classroom Leadership Skills

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by Logan Juve Janicula
Integrated Special Education Program Specialist

Students aren’t the only ones who are enjoying the summer season. Teachers, too, deserve this well-earned break to visit the beach, take in a trip or binge watch their favorite series on Netflix. Some teachers, though, will find that summer is an excellent time to own their own professional development through various workshops, training or even through resources at the local library. Here are five books that we recommend to kick off teachers’ summer reading: Continue reading

Learning & Letting Go: A Year in a Kinder Classroom

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by Chelsea Graeff
Kindergarten Teacher, Rocketship Los Sueños 

“Ms. Graeff! Ms. Graeff!”

When you are a kindergarten teacher, you are a celebrity. All of the kids call out your name when they see you, with admiration, joy and expectation — not only the students who are with you for the 180 days of that particular school year, but also all the kids who have sat in your classroom over the years. That’s because kindergarten is like no other year in elementary school. For the students, everything is new and a little bit scary at first. For the teacher, we have the privilege of shaping a child’s identity as a student and their idea of what school is all about. There is nothing more dramatic than the change in a kindergartener from the beginning of the year to the end.

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Pathways to Teaching: Rising Teachers Share Their Journeys

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by BEYOND Editorial Team
Bay Area

A few weeks ago, we shared here a look at a few of the educators involved in our Rising Leaders program. But the pathway to leadership begins even earlier at Rocketship, where we also offer a Rising Teachers program to help tutors, enrichment coordinators, paraprofessionals, and support staff earn their teaching credential. These passionate, dedicated educators are eager to lead Rocketship classrooms, so we’re giving them the tools they need to succeed there. Each cohort of Rising Teachers spends five months learning together about classroom management, lesson planning, and leadership skills. Additionally, Rocketship supports Rising Teachers in developing a timeline for the completion of a credentialing program and underwrites the cost of tuition.

To learn more about the experience and what it has to offer different types of Rising Teachers, we spoke with two current program participants. Eliza Kritz is an Individualized Learning Specialist (ILS) who is completing her first year at Rocketship Redwood City Prep. Michelle Kittel has been with Rocketship Spark for two years teaching art and drama as an Enrichment Center Coordinator (ECC), and is working toward becoming an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher.
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