10 Dec Inside Rosa Pastor’s South LA Classroom
Rosa Pastor is a first-time Math teacher at LA Promise Charter Middle School in South LA. Before coming here, she worked at the LA Promise Fund offices, answering phones and running CEO Veronica Melvin’s peripatetic schedule.
Now, sitting inside her classroom, plastered with college pennants and inspirational quotes, Ms. Pastor, as she’s known to her students, is in her element. In her calm, quiet voice, she directs the students as they work on a college-themed project to present at the upcoming all-school festival. They look to Ms. Pastor for advice and guidance. Their respect and estimation of her is apparent.
“She’s a nice teacher. She does fun stuff. She’s really great. When she teaches us math, she makes us understand. She goes slow and makes us understand why,” says Jeovany, one of her 7th grade students. Thanks to Ms. Pastor, math is his favorite subject.
Ms. Pastor has a unique understanding of what her students are going through. She grew up in the community.
“Her way of building relationships is very effective,” says Santiago Gonzalez, Ms. Pastor’s colleague, and Social Emotional Learning Coordinator at LA Promise Charter Middle School. “Maybe she can empathize with the students because they have similar backgrounds. It makes her effective and great. She’s hungry to learn as much as possible.”
He continues, “I work with students who require additional social emotional support due to multiple factors—living conditions, immigration, single parent households, and the list goes on. The kids tell me, ‘She understands me. She takes the time to listen.’ When the kids know that the teacher really cares, they behave and treat the teacher differently. It just goes to show how much relationships matter to these kids, and these teachers take the time to be there with them.”
Ms. Pastor is committed to her students. “I believe in the power of our students, that every student deserves the right to high quality education,” she says. “Every student is different. I feel they deserve to build those connections with their teachers. One reason to teach is to build those relationships – to understand them as students and individually, as well as the struggles they may be having at home or in the school.”
Ms. Pastor grew up in South LA. She was the first in her family to attend college, getting her B.S. in Mathematics from Dickinson College. “Due to the challenges and lack of guidance as a first-gen Latina in a predominantly white school, I became motivated to return to my community to work in the education field,” she explains.
She is finding that the school, as well as her colleagues and the students, are supporting her in her teaching.
“An aspect of the school that is very unique is its relationship with a nonprofit (the LA Promise Fund),” she says. “Having that relationship allows students to have opportunities like Girls Build, funding for field trips, and access to technology that not all schools have.”
“Additionally, we invest a lot of time in the students’ social emotional learning,” she says. “Mr. [Santiago] Gonzalez really plays a huge role in continuing to develop those relationships with our students.”
She elaborates that teachers are able to collaborate — “not just within grade level, but across grades.”
“Principal Carr is very supportive. He understands the challenges that we face in class and offers strategies in how to address them, as does Assistant Principal Ms. Burrell,” she says.
“It’s all the different departments overlapping and helping to make the ties between teachers and students a lot stronger. That’s one thing I didn’t really see at other schools where I’ve served. There’s been a gap between admin and students or admin and teachers. That’s not the case here.”
Ms. Pastor is one of the many pieces that makes the LA Promise Charter Middle School such a special place in South LA.
This holiday season, we’re raising money to pay for services like those offered by Santiago Gonzalez, as well as special programming at our charter schools. Please consider joining us by making a gift. From now until December 31st, your gift will be matched!