Kimberly Sanchez has been working as a fifth grade teacher at St. Athanasius School in Long Beach, California. “I think that the most rewarding part of my job is watching my students grow and develop academically, socially, and spiritually.  Fifth grade is a critical grade because students are not only learning difficult academic material, but they are starting to develop their personalities,” said Sanchez. “This past year, it was amazing to see them change from children to younger adults.”

Sanchez is making changes, too, spending the upcoming school year teaching English in Taiwan through a Fulbright scholarship. She recently shared some of her insights and experiences from the School of Education, including social justice, becoming an advocate and a teacher, and working in under-resourced classrooms. In her own words:

What was the most memorable part of your SOE experience?

One program offered through the SOE is the PLACE (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education) Corps Program. In this program aspiring teachers have an opportunity to not only build community within the under-resourced schools in which they teach, but also with the fellow teachers with whom they live. My most memorable part of the SOE is the support I received through PLACE Corps. As a beginning teacher it is hard enough to teach yet alone attend LMU for your masters and teaching credential. Having fellow first and second year teachers support me and offer me help, whether that is through attending curriculum share nights or participating in professional development activities, was the most memorable part of the SOE experience.  

What professors inspired you the most?

I find that one of the most inspirational professors I had the opportunity of learning from is Professor Greg Knotts.  Professor Knotts challenged us to be advocates and leaders of education. As he stated in one of his classes, “Parents look to you for knowledge about their child’s education and you are to provide it. You are to know the educational ‘industry’ well so you may teach others.” I feel that his advice has shaped my way of teaching. When teaching in the classroom, I am not only instructing my students on subjects like math and English, but I am shaping their lives and making a difference. I learned from him that, in order to be the change you want to see in the world, you are to put your best effort forward and help others achieve change.   

What advice would you give a colleague interested in attending the SOE?

I would advise a colleague interested in attending the SOE to ask questions about the different LMU programs and see which program best fits his/her needs. LMU SOE offers several programs ranging from Teach for America, CAST, PLACE Corps, etc. I feel that each of these programs is unique in their own way. For example, for those colleagues interested in developing their spirituality as well receiving support at home and at work, PLACE Corps would be a good fit from them. I would also tell a colleague that because these programs share the similar goal of working in under-resourced schools, the SOE is united in providing quality education for those communities whom they serve.   

What features of LMU’s program best prepared you for the challenges you face in your career?

Every semester LMU’s program offers teacher candidates a support group, which consists of an experienced teacher and fellow candidates. The experienced teacher (a.k.a. the support person) comes to observe your classroom at least four times each semester. I found my support person not only provided me feedback on how I could improve, but she encouraged me during my first few years of teaching. She would go out of her way and meet with me to discuss discipline and teaching strategies. Likewise, when I would meet with my support group at least 3 times in the semester, they provided me with useful teaching ideas and answered my questions if I needed help with LMU classes. Hence, I would say that this part of the program best prepared me for the challenges I face in my career.

How has the SOE's focus on social justice affected the way you see your job?

According to the LMU SOE website, “The School of Education at LMU prepares to work in culturally diverse schools, serving as leaders in their institutions and their communities.”  After teaching in under-resourced schools through the PLACE Corps program I can say that the SOE has prepared me to work in these schools. In my classes, my professors emphasize looking at my students as individuals. Each student comes from his/her own unique background and it is our job as teachers to cater to their needs.  I feel that once you immerse yourself into your school community, you not only receive the benefit of knowing your students, but you create a sense of respect for each other. As I teach this upcoming year in Taiwan as a Fulbright scholar, I hope to apply the SOE’s focus on social justice into my classroom.