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Introducing our 2023 Aspire2Alder Award Winners!

We are so thrilled to announce our 2023 Aspire2Alder winners!

For the first time org-wide, we are celebrating two amazing employees from each of our three regions who have chosen to grow their career at Aspire Public Schools by entering into the Alder GSE teacher residency program, through which they will earn a master’s in education and teaching credentials.

These folx have been selected based on a recommendation from their school leaders and demonstrating Aspire’s core value of Bienestar by promoting well-being in their campuses and bringing their full selves to educating. Learn more about our amazing winners and their plans to grow as culturally responsive teachers for social change below!

Vivian Grant (Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy)
Vivian felt prompted by a higher calling to join the Alder residency program. She has been an educator in previous professional and volunteer roles, and found that the classroom setting provides ways to fortify youth in truly enduring ways. In five years, she hopes to be at an Aspire school in her hometown of Oakland, teaching History, Ethnic Studies, or any other Social Science in a culturally sustaining manner. 

To Vivian as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: Acknowledging, often openly, that various elements of me – spirit, thoughts, emotions, experiences, biases, and physical state –  exist, and have different needs on any given day. My transparency shown by appropriately modeling to my students how I address all elements of myself should make students more likely to acknowledge their own state, emotional and otherwise. More importantly, my transparency will empower students by encouraging them to address their own feelings, etc.

Vivian plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Continuing to color my teaching with my overall desire to (quietly and loudly) fight the powers and obtain social justice for all. Engaging in Culturally Sustaining and Responsive pedagogy. Students, too, can be activated as a part of many lessons by simply encouraging them to look at the facts that inform our truths, even in academic learning. As an educator, I can combat some elements of social injustice by simply valuing my students’ cultural wealth as I teach them their subject matter. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Eric Jaimes (Aspire Titan Academy)
Eric is excited to pursue the Alder residency through Aspire as it aligns with their values and goals. In five years, they hope to grow as an educator, engage in inclusive pedagogy, and lead community events that foster an inclusive environment for their community.

To Eric as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: Creating a safe environment where students are able to express themselves freely, and where their identity is respected and seen… bringing both my personal struggles and privilege to give my students both an academic and socially rich experience.

Eric plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Fostering an inclusive environment that encourages pride in students’ abilities, identities, and communities. Positive social change in my classroom looks like this – a multilingual word wall so that learners from different linguistic backgrounds feel a sense of pride and belonging in the culture and languages they speak at home. Change also looks like this – every student’s identity is respected and honored, especially those that do not fall within the dominant cultures of gender and other societal norms. Positive social change also looks like this – when students of color are not at the same reading or writing level as their peers, I will create rigorous academic standards that build on the students’ existing cultural capital while preparing them to succeed in a world that is not designed for them. The world is a hectic place, and I firmly believe that change will happen one student at a time.

Kacie Lor (Aspire Rosa Parks Academy)
Kacie has always wanted to be a teacher, and was excited to find the Alder GSE program to grow as an educator by partnering with underserved, high-need schools. Growing up Hmong American in a school of predominately white and Latinx classmates, she often felt left out or othered, and as a result is passionate about inclusion as an educator. In five years, she looks forward to being a strengths-based teacher who creates a classroom filled with love, respect, and diversity. 

To Kacie as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: That I am more than just a teacher to my students but a guardian that will not only teach but respect and be there empathetically for them. I hope by being my full authentic self, students can also be comfortable by being their full authentic selves and eventually care about wanting to learn and grow to their fullest potential. I believe the values of compassion, collaboration, kindness, and respect must be laid down and understood before academic learning.

Kacie plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Promoting an imaginative, hands-on, nurturing classroom experience. I believe kindness matters more in a classroom than authority. Teachers change the world, they are caregivers at school, counselors in the classroom, and guardians of all things when their students walk into their class. I want to be a teacher as well, one that inspires children and helps them realize in times of need that the world is a much better place if you believe and have hope in yourselves and others. I want to support children in underserved communities and let them know that it’s okay when life throws snowballs every now and then. Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on, a friend to talk to, and an inclusive environment where open dialogue is allowed.

Bethany Alana McBurney (Aspire Langston Hughes Academy)
Bethany has always felt connected and called to teach. As a K-12 Aspire alumna, she felt moved to come back after college to teach at her alma mater, Langston Hughes Academy. She took the first step towards her teaching goal by taking a position as an After School Program educator at Aspire Port City Academy, and is thrilled to now be a resident at LHA. In five years, she looks forward to creating a safe and inclusive space for her students to foster a love of learning, while being able to learn about untold histories of different cultures. 

To Bethany as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: Showing up as my most real, authentic self. This can look like having transparency with colleagues and students and opening up about my lived experiences. Bringing my full self also means creating a classroom environment where I feel safe and secure, this would hopefully extend to my students as well. 

Bethany plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Teaching one of the first Ethnic Studies classes at my school site. Ethnic Studies is the subject that impacted me the most, it empowered me and served as a stepping stone into other opportunities. I want to be an educator that helps to empower students and teach them how to be advocates in their own learning. To be an effective educator you need to know the students you are working with and the community you are coming into. I plan to try my best to really get to know my students to establish healthy relationships, and continue learning about my school site community. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to do my residency at my alma mater with one of the teachers who also taught me during high school. I feel very connected to Aspire, and I’m looking forward to starting my teaching journey in the community that influenced my K-12 educational journey. 

Valerie Moreno (Aspire Gateway Academy)
Valerie is pursuing the Alder residency program through Aspire because it aligns with her beliefs in creating an equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist education for students of color that have been historically marginalized. She looks forward to dismantling oppressive systems, providing quality education, and building successful students. She grew up in the same communities as her students, so she knows the community and cultural capital her students bring to the classroom and offer society. In five years, Valerie sees herself as an Education Specialist continuing to advocate for students at Aspire Public Schools and eventually growing into a leadership role.

To Valerie as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: Being aware of my intersecting identities such as my ethnicity, race, and gender because they impact my teaching and interaction with students. It also means, as an educator, having the courage to be vulnerable and be my authentic self. Doing so will allow me to lead with humility and build rapport with my students to create a safe learning environment. Bringing my unique background and personality to my classroom can create memorable experiences and connections with my students by having a person of color teach them. It is important that students see themselves reflected in their educators and provide them with someone who values their funds of knowledge that they bring from home. 

Valerie plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Helping dismantle the oppressive systems found in educational institutions that have marginalized many students of color, and creating a learning environment that celebrates identity, culture, and community. This will require me to build rapport with students and offer lessons that present materials that include students’ identities and assets. I will create an asset-based environment that focuses on strengths in the classroom, accommodating how I teach lessons to make it more fun and engaging so that everyone understands the materials. As a teacher, I plan on giving my students tools to find the freedom to transform their reality. I plan on being a force for positive social change by preparing students with a quality and equitable education that acknowledges the historical oppression of students of color to motivate them to break barriers and fight oppression with resistance.

Erica Yamane (Aspire Richmond Technology Academy)
Erica was inspired by fellow teachers and the leadership team at RTA to join the Alder residency program. She wanted to work with students with disabilities, and realized she could still apply her skills in a general education setting, noting that all students can benefit from differentiated instruction and teaching from a trauma-informed lens. In 5 years, she sees herself continuing as a transformative educator within the Aspire community.

To Erica as an educator, Bienestar and “bringing your full self” to work means: Teaching with heart. It means fostering a sense of community, safety, and trust in the classroom, and showing up for the students we serve. When we build community in our classrooms, students are able to thrive, learn from their mistakes, and embody a growth mindset. Educators who bring their full self are those who encourage their students to bring their full selves into the classroom as well. It means affirming and sustaining their culture and home heritage and allowing students to feel seen, heard, and have their identities reflected and validated inside the classroom. 

Erica plans to be an effective educator and force for positive social change by: Being a voice for students that are pushed to the margins. I think about my experience as an Instructional Aide for Special Education, and what it felt like to grow up undiagnosed with ADHD without any additional academic or behavioral support. I empathize with students who have disabilities, because I understand how difficult it can be to grow up in an environment that was not designed for their success. I have hope that I will be an educator who will advocate for their students to ensure that they do not feel “othered” and who will meet students where they’re at and provide them with support, encouragement, and the skills they need to meet their goals.