The Many Voices of Grit. True Stories, Real Educators, Serious Inspiration.
A pleasant childhood in a small town in Southern Mexico was cut short for Nayeli when tragedy struck. The cartel’s activities in her town were increasing. Her father, a hardworking family man, was targeted and kidnapped for ransom. He escaped and somehow made it back to his home but life had changed forever. From that point on, they lived in fear. One day their worst fear happened; Nayeli’s beloved father was killed. Nayeli’s mother fled to the United States to protect her four children and the fifth that she was carrying.
“When we arrived in the United States we went to live with my father’s family and I began to attend the high school in the neighborhood. I was seventeen years old, did not speak very much English, and was completely unprepared for my new life. Every teenager wants to fit in and after living in the same town all of my life I felt completely out of place in this new environment. I was shy, self-conscious, and socially isolated. I spent most of my day in room 913, a class for English Language Learners.”
“I worked hard in school and wanted to do well despite my language barrier and other challenges. I was also working full time to help my mother to support the family. I wanted to make my mother and father in Heaven proud of me. Some of my teachers were very kind to me during this difficult period and offered connection, encouragement, and help. It was then that I began to dream about becoming a teacher someday and helping kids like me”.
“I felt that I could use my experience as an English Language Learner student to make a difference in their lives. I also wanted to make my family proud and to honor my father’s memory. Being a teacher would mean that I would be the first person in my family to graduate college. At the time, I was not proficient in English nor did I have the immigration status needed to receive financial aid. I was dreaming big”.
“It took me 10 years to become a teacher. I worked full time and took 1-2 courses at a time. I paid for my classes without any assistance for years while I worked toward adjusting my immigration status. I would get frustrated because I knew that it was going to take a long time but I felt that I owed it to my father to make him proud of me and that some way or another I had to accomplish this dream to be educated, to have a profession, and to make a positive impact.”
“I worked in a restaurant, first as a prep cook, and eventually as a waitress which was a raise in pay. I still struggled to communicate clearly in English. I cried several times because of the way that people spoke to me, how they lost their patience with me, or at times even complained to the manager about my English. One day, during a low point, I found a card that had been left behind on a table. I don’t know if it was intentionally left by the customer or the Divine but that card gave me the words that I needed to hear to that day. The card read, “It’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it.”
“Although I am currently pursuing a Master’s in TESOL to teach English Language Learners, I made the decision to become a Spanish teacher initially. I became a Spanish teacher because I was intimidated about communicating effectively in English. I had to work on my own self-confidence. Being a Spanish teacher has allowed me to gain confidence in English as a professional and to share my culture with others.”
“I chose to do my student teaching at the high school that I graduated from and was fortunate to also be hired by the same school for my first teaching job. I was excited to serve the community that I have lived in since coming to the United States ten years prior. One day a student asked me a few questions about myself. I saw this as an opportunity to create connection. I told the class that just as they were learning Spanish, I had to learn English to begin my high school career in the United States. I explained a little bit about my experience of being a teenager in a new country with a language barrier and how hard I had to study. It was at that moment that I realized that the room that I started out as an ELL Learner was the same room that I was standing in, my classroom, room 913.”