June 19, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Omar Araiza

E4E-Los Angeles member Omar Araiza has been a teacher for 7 years, and is a member of the Teacher Policy Team on Career Pathways. He is currently a 4th grade teacher at New Open World Academy.

Outside of the classroom, Omar was a mentor teacher for the UCLA IMPACT Residency program, and is currently a UCLA Writing Project Fellow this summer. He also volunteered to interview prospective students for the 2013-14 Teacher Education Program (TEP) and will be speaking at information sessions for UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute (PLI).

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I was a counselor for UCLA’s UNICAMP. I, along with a fellow counselor, were assigned 8-10 girls to guide and advice. Through this work I realized that when you work with children you have to become selfless. After doing that job for 6 years realized I was good at it and wanted to continue working with children.

I am really concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline. The thought is always with me when I’m teaching and it’s what drives my instructional decisions. I always ask myself, “What can I do for my kids to keep them away from that road?”

Why did you become an E4E member?

I felt comfortable and had a good rapport with the staff and other members. They have encouraged me to take on important roles through the Policy Team and other events, and I love trying these new avenues of leadership.

What made you decide to join the Teacher Policy Team?

I was a political science major in college, but have not put it into practice. I thought the policy team was a good way for me to get involved in policy work.

I have learned a lot from all the information shared by E4E and fellow Teacher Policy Team members. It has been a rewarding experience because, as a human being, you should always be learning and not be stagnant. Being a Teacher Policy Team member rejuvenates me for the classroom and puts my daily instruction in a larger perspective.

What drew you to the topic of career pathways? What do you want to see out of a career pathway for teachers?

I think younger teachers are often over-looked for the great work they’re doing, even while they are struggling.  It’s important to give them the support, not only so that we can help them get better, but so that we can capitalize on their strengths and expand their expertise.

I want to elevate the profession as one that is both an art and a science. I’ve learned that it requires constant creative problem-solving and tenacity, and is not the “baby-sitting” that some people assume it to be. I’m hoping that giving growth and leadership opportunities to excellent teachers will elevate the profession and create better results for students.

What's been the most interesting idea you've learned so far?

To think about our own “Emerging Teacher” stage of the Career Pathway, we researched Boston’s education model where novice teachers spend a full year in the classroom with a mentor teacher. It has shown to be a successful model. In fact, 80% of their teachers remain in the district. It was refreshing to know there is a program that lets you learn by doing, similar to doing a residency where someone is there to catch you.

How did last week's launch event make you feel? What was a highlight for you?

Last week’s launch event made me feel great. I was happy to see that our paper was finally published. Our hard work paid off and the fact that it was acknowledged gave me a great sense of efficacy.

The highlight of last week’s launch event was when Dr. Deasy stated that all our recommendations were doable and that he was behind them. I felt as if we made a difference!

Now that the paper is published, what are you excited for next?

Now that the paper is published, I’m excited to see what happens next. To be honest, I don’t know what happens next, so I guess I am excited about the unexpected. I can’t wait to see what my role will be during the next steps.