This year’s National Teacher Appreciation Week takes place Monday, May 7 – Friday, May 11. To celebrate, we’re highlighting dedicated educators at some of our partner schools. 

Paulina Martinez is a 9th-grade English and English Language Development teacher at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. Ms. Martinez began teaching 11 years ago.

She was inspired to become a teacher by two of her own English teachers. Ms. Martinez did not start high school with the intention of going to college.

“As the daughter of immigrant parents, I didn’t think college was for me, especially because I was also an English learner.  However, my two English teachers (Mr. Buchman and Dr. Combe)  inspired me to see myself as a reader and writer, and I started to see my strengths as a student in their classes,” recounts Ms. Martinez.

Dr. Combe, who also happened to be her drama teacher, coached and motivated her to pursue teaching.  Acting gave Ms. Martinez the confidence to strengthen her public voice, and her English classes helped her develop the skills that would eventually nurture her growth as an English major at UCLA.

Ms. Martinez loves graduation day and getting emails from former students. But her proudest moment came last semester.

A former student of hers came back to visit on parent-teacher conference night.  Ms. Martinez was her freshman and junior English teacher and had seen her struggle through school. When she came back for a visit, she thanked Ms. Martinez for helping her and told her that she had inspired her to pursue teaching.  The former student is now student teaching and on her way to earning her teaching credential.  She said she even had her students complete some of the same writing activities Ms. Martinez had made her do when she was her student!  Ms. Martinez believes moments like these make the difficulties of the job all worth it.

When asked what systemic changes she would like to see take place in public education, Ms. Martinez  said she would like to see a better evaluation system for keeping and supporting teachers who actually care and support our students and their growth.

“Teaching is one of the most important professions in our society, therefore, we need highly committed teachers who are capable of supporting student learning and growth.  Teaching is not for everyone.  It is a highly demanding profession, but we need educators who are willing to disrupt the status quo and help prepare a generation of learners to overcome the problems we are grappling with today,” said Ms. Martinez.

But even with the challenges and areas of improvement that she sees, Ms. Martinez would not trade her profession for anything else in the world. She feels lucky to be paid for what she loves to do.

“Every day is a struggle, but my students and colleagues motivate me to be a better educator every day.  I’m continually inspired by my students and my colleagues, and I never forget the lessons I gained from reading Paulo Freire, Angela Valenzuela, Luis C. Moll, Tara Yosso and many others who understand the critical need for sustainable reform to education and the power of teaching.”