My passion for teaching traces back to my school days, especially middle school. To get to school, I walked through "The Main," an area notorious for prostitution and drug dealing. Many families in my neighborhood were poor and gangs, substance abuse and domestic violence were common. School was a safe haven for me and my peers, a place to escape the problems that plagued our community.

I was fortunate to have teachers who expressed an interest in me and cultivated my love for learning. It was my middle school teachers who first introduced me to the idea that I could attend college. Their attention, high standards and encouragement paved my path to becoming the first in my family to graduate from a university.

Unfortunately, many of my friends had a different story. Even though we had some of the same middle school teachers, they did not have the same nurturing experience I did. I'll never forget how my 5th grade teacher told me to leave my friends behind. To her, they were troublemakers and a bad influence. To me, they were my support network. Yes, some did act out, lacked focus in class, didn't complete their homework. But they had talents and aspirations, too. I looked up to many of my friends and admired their courage, tenacity, charisma and street smarts.

It bothered me that they got the short end of the stick at school.

When I went to college, I thought about the difference between my educational journey and theirs. And I could not help but wonder: What if my friends' teachers showed as much interest in them as my teachers showed in me?

So I decided to become a teacher because of my friends who did not succeed in school. I became a teacher so that kids from bad ciscumstances they didn't choose are not written off. I became a teacher so other kids kids like me, get the chance I was given.

I will never know the answer to my question that sparked a career in education, but I am glad I asked it.

With a Perspective, I'm Angela Estrella.

Angela Estrella teaches in the Fremont Union High School District.  She lives in San Jose.


  • Kevin R. Fish

    Hello, Angela Estrella:
    I thoroughly agree with your reasons for being a teacher. These are noble sentiments, and must be praised.
    However, as a substitute teacher in your and other high school districts in 1991-2000, and in 2004-2009, I encountered dishonesty, ignorance, egotism, and immaturity on the part of many teachers and administrators because of how they treated myself and other substitutes. Your district and the Cupertino Union School District fired me in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
    At Fremont High School, there were several problems. I asked the office if there was a rally that day, but the man who answered the telephone refused to answer. On another occasion, the assistant principal lied that I lacked control, but the regular English teacher did not offer a complete lesson, and the department chairman did not even bring in the working papers for the students until fifteen minutes into the period. In still another classroom (French class), a man came in and one of his remarks was that he did not like how the regular teacher ran the class.
    At Lynbrook High School, a foreign language teacher came in and made several lies about me when I substituted for a Spanish class. She said that a boy ran out of the room, but I was very near the only door in the room, and nobody ran past me. She also claimed that she talked to the students, but did not do so. She said that I was reading a book, but I was merely glancing at the teacher’s edition of the class’s textbook while observing the students watching the video that was the lesson plan. She also complained about a student who was behind my back using headphones for a walkman while he was watching the video, and claimed that walkmans were not allowed on campus at all, even during lunch and brunch, which is really a policy matter for the principal. Her most outrageous complaint was that three boys behind my back were playing cards, and that that was an actual criminal offense. However, it is not a criminal offense according to California Penal Code Section 330 and the California Supreme Court’s Pittman Decision of 1967.
    Kevin R. Fish

    • George A.

      People from all careers and professions can be dishonest and immature, but I believe that most teachers are more ethical and mature than the “average” American. Teachers are definitely not causing our economy to breakdown due to arrogance and greed (financial meltdown), not bickering with partisanship (our house of representatives), or lying about things that cause people to die (WMD). Teachers in my experience are some of the most giving, thoughtful, and intelligent people I have ever met. I am sorry that you had such a bad experience.

  • Ms. Marcela Miranda

    Ms. Estrella,
    As a second language learner also growing up in a rough area, I too wonder how it is that I managed to not only graduate from high school, but continue my education and receive a Master’s Degree in Education. Others in my class were not so fortunate. For me, it was navigating the “system” that was most difficult which is why I am so passionate about hosting parent gatherings and ensuring they receive proper information to help their students.
    Thank you for your perspective.

  • Julie Alice Huson

    Isn’t it noble of Ms. Estrella to enter teaching in order to “make a difference” when she perceives that the rest of her professional colleagues apparently only encourage a few promising students? Ms. Estrella may have admirable goals to teach, motivated by what she perceives to be preferential treatment of motivated students such as herself.

    Many teachers I have worked with enter the profession with these kinds of goals, but no teacher I admire continues in this work believing that he or she has personally raised up a child, from any economic background, by their own dedication and lofty ideals. It takes a community of educators, and hopefully Ms. Estrella has not alienated her co-workers by suggesting that she is one of the few that cares about every child. How immature, Ms. Estrella. The teachers I know teach children and don’t dismiss any child ever. Your memory of school is sad, Ms. Estrella, but don’t think you are the only noble educator out there trying to encourage every child every day. We’re all doing that. All of us. Join the team and be careful about accusing those in the profession you’ve chosen as being less than interested in the welfare of our children and our society..

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