Our highest priority in the Denver Public Schools is to have the best teachers in our classrooms to serve our students. Nothing means more to the growth and success of our kids than the quality of their teachers. And we know how impactful it is for our kids to connect with teachers who have shared the same life experiences as they have.
One of the extraordinary teachers we have hired is Alejandro Fuentes Mena. Alejandro came to the United States from Chile at the age of 4. He is a top-of-his-class Teach For America (TFA) teacher, who attended a prestigious university and plans to continue his career as an educator following his service through TFA. He is also a talented young man who came to this country without documents. Thanks to the federal government's deferred action status for childhood arrivals (DACA), Alejandro now is able to work as a teacher and give back to his community. Watch 9News
and Fox31 News
reports on Alejandro's story.
While attending public
school in San Diego, Alejandro said it was one of his teachers who made the biggest impact on his education and confidence. As an undocumented student, Alejandro feared that college and career were out of his reach and that he couldn't be successful.
"For me, that changed because of one specific teacher," Alejandro said. "That teacher was there with me and guided me, and she is who I owe much of my success to. She motivated me and always tried to see the best in me. She was willing to put forth the effort to encourage me to do my best. And for the first time, I got a 4.0 (grade-point average). I just stared at it for so long, and my teacher said to me, 'I told you, you could do it. I told you.'"
Alejandro believes he can and will have a similar impact on the lives of his students.
"As a teacher, I think there is value to me sharing the same background and experiences as some of these kids. The impossible that existed in my childhood is something that is plausible and a reality now. I now have the opportunity to impact my students and show them that they too can achieve at the highest levels," he said. "Being a teacher means I have the ability to help these students and make a difference in their lives."
The diverse and dedicated teachers like Alejandro who join DPS via Teach For America are often bilingual or multilingual -- which is a great need in DPS -- and they have a deep personal understanding of the challenges faced by many of our students who similarly came to the United States as young children in an undocumented status. The DACA directive, implemented on Aug. 15, 2012, offers undocumented
immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 -- and who meet certain criteria -- the opportunity to live and work in the United States.
Thanks to generous funding from the Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, Inc., Denver has become the country's first school district to partner with TFA to hire these talented teachers who are committed to giving back to their community and who are an inspiration to our kids.
I believe in each of our teachers and the immense impact they can have on our students' education and futures. But Alejandro said it best:
"I think it's the right step. It's a step that has the potential to impact generation upon generation. Students can see for themselves that there's someone here who kind of looks like me and has the same background as me and is doing great things. I can do great things, too."