Story contributed by City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member Amanda Merced
There are many things that make up our journey here at City Year; our team, our students, and our partner teachers. No matter the school structure, our partner teachers make up a big chunk of our experience with our students. Yes, we want as much time as possible to work with our students and we hope to be as incorporated into the classroom as possible, but our relationship with our teachers is a big part of our success.
My partner teacher, Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez is nothing short of the perfect example of such success. She is kind, loving, and always there to tell you what you need to hear not so much what you want to hear. She's big with not only incorporating me into her classroom, but allowing the students to get as much real life connection into her 8th grade reading and writing class as possible.
Social Justice is the over-arching theme of Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez’s class. For me, having received my degree in sociology and possessing a strong passion for social justice, it was refreshing to find a teacher who thought the same way that I did. We tag team throughout the day to show our students why it's important to know about the first amendment and why the definition of power is important and who holds power, and how our society works and where they, as inner-city Mexican-American students, fit in the web of this world.
She constantly advocates for her students, promotes her classroom as a safe space, and is huge advocate for teamwork. Not a week goes by where you won't hear her say “you all came into this class together and you all are graduating together.” Despite the harsh realities that face some of these students, she does not stop providing our students with the utmost resources she possibly can.
Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez offers tutoring, won a grant and bought a smart board that benefits all learning styles, won her homeroom free backpacks, and even has a food section in her room for students who get hungry throughout the day and need that extra boost to continue their work. She loves, but doesn’t coddle.
A great teacher doesn't teach from the book, but from the heart. Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez does just that unconditionally and unapologetically.