Meet the September COSP Educator of the Month

Grace Sandoval teaches at one.Discover, part of SJCOE County Operated Schools and Programs

Congratulations to Grace Sandoval, the September Educator of the Month from San Joaquin County Office of Education County Operated Schools and Programs. The teacher at one.Discover is on her second year teaching at the SJCOE, following seven years teaching at two other Stockton schools.

The SJCOE asked Sandoval to answer a few questions about teaching and why she decided to become a teacher. Here's what she had to say.

What do you love about teaching? 

I love learning about students' stories. I love figuring out how they think and their reasoning for thinking the way they do. I love that I have the ability to work with them so closely and hopefully leave a positive impact on their lives. I love seeing that light bulb turn on when students actually get the content. I love seeing students succeed, whether it be crossing that stage to get their diploma, becoming wonderful mothers and fathers and setting a positive example to their children, or going on to higher education. 

So many students doubt their capabilities, so when I see students reach success in the classroom and outside the classroom, it is a constant reminder of why I do what I do.

What are your students surprised to learn about you?

Students are always shocked to learn that I was never an A student in high school. It also amazes them that a girl from the South Side is a teacher. They also seem to enjoy that they can't clown on me without me having a quick and GOOD comeback. It's so much fun! 

What’s the best thing that has happened in your classroom the past month?

The best thing that is happening in my classroom right now are the teacher-student relationships that are being built. Most students show respect towards me, and because of it, they listen and they work, and they understand the content. Because we have these positive relationships, students aren't afraid to speak out. They aren't afraid to participate in class and are even providing input on how to make the year better. I hope these positive relationships will continue to make my classroom a safe environment for these students. 

Why did you choose education? 

In my high school years, I wasn't the best student. I argued with teachers and cut school. My decisions led teachers and staff to tell me that going to college wasn't going to be the best decision for me because "most Mexican girls end up pregnant or working in the fields anyway." With encouragement from a different teacher (and only ONE teacher), this made me turn my F's into D's and C's. (Again, I wasn't the best student. I just knew I had to get by.) I graduated and moved on to a two-year college.

In my second year of classes, I was struggling. I tried seeking help, but teachers were frustrated with me. I remember getting a test back, and on that test, was a note from my teacher telling me I should give up. Why am I wasting my time? Start looking for a job. This is not for you.

THIS was the ammo that I needed.

I didn't even finish my second year. I transferred to a university, changed my major and kicked butt. I was determined to get into the schools and encourage kids, and not just any kids. Kids who came from my 'hood. Kids who were lost just as much as I was. I wanted to be that one who tells them, " You CAN do this. You WILL do this." I managed to graduate with my bachelor's degree, then moved on to earn two master's degrees, with honors, and I even made it on the Dean's List.

Who was your favorite teacher as a child? Why?

Mr. Cervantes. Mr. Cervantes taught math at my high school, and I hated math. He was actually one of the ones that I ALWAYS argued with. He was always kicking me out of his classroom, telling me go to the principal's office. Then one day, I had gotten into a fight in his classroom. He asked me to step outside, and I remember thinking, "Great, I'm going to be suspended this time." 

Instead of shutting the door right after me, he talked to me. His words were, "What are you doing? Why are you acting like this? Your grades are low. You are part of the Latino statistics (students who don't graduate). We want to change that. You need to change that." After being told I wasn't going to make it by another teacher a couple days before, that was enough to encourage me to do better. I did not want to be part of THOSE statistics. Mr. Cervantes, although I'm sure he was completely frustrated with me, took the time to talk to me, took the time to push me on a different path.

I am forever grateful for Mr. Cervantes. Imagine his surprise when he found out I became a teacher!

Posted: 9/20/2017