In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week earlier this month, here is a snapshot of just one of our fabulous teachers who goes above and beyond to help students.

When you tell a student that you understand the challenges they’re experiencing, like being behind in credits, trying to learn English and needing to work, they may appreciate the empathy, but probably are skeptical that you really understand. Not so with Jose Mendoza, a math and ELD teacher who lived through all that and more in his journey from growing up very poor in a small village in Mexico. He couldn’t attend middle school because even if his family could have afforded to pay for it, there wasn’t a school anywhere near where he lived.

Jose came to the U.S. when he was 14 and didn’t speak English. He was highly motivated to learn the language as fast as he could, so he bought a Spanish-to-English dictionary at Barnes & Noble. “I learned a few words a week, the meaning, pronunciation and spelling. I would listen to conversations my classmates were having and memorize the phrases,” he explained. “Then I would ask my ELD teacher what they meant and how to write them.”

In his senior year, a resource came to his school to help students apply for FAFSA, which helped him go to community college. While working two jobs to support his family, he earned his AA, the completed his bachelor’s degree in education. Jose later received a master’s in educational leadership with a concentration in technology, educational leadership and general administration.

“Both before and during the pandemic, Jose always has high student engagement numbers, low turnover rates and high graduation rates,” said Lindsay Reese, area superintendent. “He communicates often with his students and if they haven’t been doing the work, he reaches out to their family and friends to help get the student back on track. He doesn’t give up on anyone who is struggling.”

Jose views his role as a service provider, always going above and beyond to keep them engaged and on track to graduate. “I show students that I care, but also that I mean business,” he said. “Because I have been where they are, they trust me more and see me as a mentor. But they also know they can’t get away with anything.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian