Creating a Path to Every Student’s Passion

by | 07.11.19

As a young person, I didn’t know what it was like to feel valued – and that’s part of what lead me to teaching. Students are at the forefront of every decision I make. Some of my students have been treated coldly and made to feel like they are disposable, and I want to show them that those past experiences are not their future.

When I started teaching at a new school, I learned that high turnover had left my students behind on their work. One student was really struggling with her reading comprehension and her writing. But when it came to speaking, she blew everyone away with her thoughtfulness and insight.

So when I assigned a paper, I gave her the option to record herself. She would speak her responses to the prompt, using evidence from the texts, and then she’d share the recording with me. We workshopped her writing together, and she learned to make it sound like she spoke, instead of trying to write in a voice that wasn’t hers. We worked toward making sure her words had the same power on the page.

Within a year, she came into my classroom, so excited, and invited me to a slam competition. She took the hard work she’d put into reading and writing, combined that with her oratory skills and became a spoken word poet. She made the local team, and then she was competing nationally. That led her to community organizing. Now she’s made a name for herself by using her voice to achieve powerful things. 

To see that the skills my student once struggled with are the same skills she used to find her passion and put her stamp on her community – that’s a story I hold very near and dear to my heart. As teachers, we are problem-solvers, constantly working to support our students in new ways. It’s my mission to make sure kids feel seen, heard, loved and free to envision and create the world they want to live in.

About the Author

Dianna Tejada
Dianna Tejada

Dianna Tejada is a teacher in D.C. Follow her on Twitter @Mx_Tejada.

More community favorites


Looking to Try a Classroom Library Audit?

by Molly Castner

I teach middle school, and it’s such an important time for students to discover what books they like and to develop a solid reader’s ide...