Teachers & Leaders
This month's teacher spotlight features Paola Guerrero, English & Language Arts Teacher at IDEA Academy Brownsville. Read about her journey, and how she's giving back to the community she loves.
How long have you been with IDEA?
I have been with IDEA for 5 years now. I began at IDEA Frontier as a 2nd grade co-teacher in English Language Arts (ELA). I worked at IDEA Frontier for 2 years and then transferred to IDEA Brownsville, which is now my home. I wanted to help the children in my community because as a child, I didn't have anyone to advise me or guide me in education. I wanted to help my students understand how important education is in our lives.
You mentioned you didn’t have someone to advise you or guide you in education – do you see yourself in your students?
I do, and I tell them that they have what it takes to achieve their dreams. I came from the same background. I am the only graduate in my family, so I always tell my students: "You have me, your parents and family, you have other teachers here at school, and you have your classmates."
How did you find your way to teaching – and in ELA?
I have always loved reading! As a little girl, I would play teacher with one of my cousins. I just always wanted to teach, but going to college was a rough road. I found myself working in banking for several years. After that, I decided to go back to college. I got into education and worked with unaccompanied immigrant children for a couple of years. Then I joined the IDEA Team & Family.
What do you love about working at IDEA?
I love being able to take my students on reading adventures! We place such an emphasis on literacy here, which is so important.
What is challenging about working at IDEA?
There are challenges in every workplace, and I think it's what keeps us going. Learning how to handle different situations was a little scary at the beginning, but now I feel more confident, like I can really find a positive way to turn things around. I have worked with so many students. I remember my first year and it was like “Oh my, what did I get myself into?” but it all comes with time I think, just getting to know your students.
How do you think your background as a 1st generation graduate impacts your ability to teach your students?
I grew up living with my dad and grandparents who didn't speak English, so it wasn't allowed at home. At the age of 5, I found myself translating all of my family's correspondence. By the time I was in 2nd grade, I realized the power and importance of being bilingual. I am the only college graduate in my family—and I hope to foster educational resilience in my students.
What is your proudest moment as an IDEA teacher?
My proudest moments have been working with the most critical students. They have more gaps to close so it makes every step of the way much more satisfying. What I really enjoy is getting to see the growth of the students throughout the year and then being able to see them when they move on to the next grade level. They always come back and say hello, which makes me happy.
Join Paola on the mission to foster all students on the road to success in college and in life.