By Emily Baeza, City Year Los Angeles Corps Member

Mr. Arellano stands outside his classroom door every morning waiting for his 9th and 10th grade algebra students to arrive. Before anyone enters the room, he makes sure to shake their hand and greet them with a friendly “Hello, good morning.” Once the bell rings, the students rise and recite a pledge to reaffirm their commitment to being mathematicians.

I am a proud City Year AmeriCorps member and Mr. Arellano is the math teacher I work with at Mendez High School. Together we have fostered a safe space for student collaboration, investigation and learning in room T201.

City Year recognizes education is the key to near endless future opportunities, and believes all kids have the potential to learn. However, many students in the communities where City Year serves face external factors, like poverty and environmental stressors, which can significantly affect their ability to learn. Great teachers are critical to a student’s success, but even the best teachers cannot possibly meet the individual needs of all students. City Year works closely with teachers and schools to fill in this gap by supporting struggling students who need extra care and attention. This is where the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” comes into play. Along with Mr. Arellano and other teachers at Mendez, my teammates and I have a village to support our students.

Along with my fellow AmeriCorps members Miriam and Jeffrey, Mr. Arellano and I meet weekly to review the progression of the class as a whole. We also take time to discuss potential difficulties the class may face with specific subject matter, or to examine the progress of a particular student we are all working to support and set up for success. Mr. Arellano shares quantitative data with me, such as test scores, and I share qualitative data with him, such as a student’s favored method of learning or what activities worked best in a one-on-one session plan.

Recently, we hosted a collaboration session to tackle the issue of tardiness and class attendance. To remedy our students’ lackadaisical approach to punctuality, we came up with the idea of pop quizzes at the start of class. This not only encouraged our late-arrivals to hurry to math class, but it also rewarded the students who were already consistently showing up on time. In a matter of two weeks, tardiness was reduced by half and students were entering the class with a stronger sense of purpose—their pledge to being mathematicians exemplified. The skills my team and I employ in our journey throughout the year include the ability to imagine, transform and inspire. I work with Mr. Arellano every day to accomplish these goals. My relationship with Mr. Arellano is a constant source of inspiration and motivation that allows me to come to school every morning, ready with a handshake and a “Hello, good morning” for every student. 

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