I feel incredibly privileged to be part of an award that acknowledges those who put service and social justice at the forefront of their work. To be recognized for something I to love to do is a source of great pride, and to be called a “champion of change” is an honor so deep that I’m not sure I’ve comprehended it yet.
All of my time is dedicated to practicing and reflecting on the craft of teaching. Yes, I do spend countless hours going to staff meetings, completing paperwork, and performing all of the other elements of the daily grind that comprise the life of a modern day public school teacher; but I’m energized by the fact that every day for 6 hours, I get to be in front of 30 eager students. And I get to teach.
I have found joy in my profession because I work in a special place called KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. KIPP, The Knowledge Is Power Program, is a network of free, open-enrollment public charter schools that prepares low-income and minority students for success in college and the competitive world beyond. KIPP builds a partnership among parents, students, and teachers that puts learning first. By providing a team of outstanding teachers and leaders, an extended day and year, and a strong culture of achievement, KIPP is helping all students climb the mountain to and through college.
I would never have made it to and through college myself if not for the great teachers in my life, such as: Mrs. Rivera, my 3rd grade teacher, who taught me that I should always pay attention to the people and places around me; my parents, who showed me how to remain committed to family and stick together through hard times; Miguel Gonzales Rodriguez, my English teacher who taught me how to listen and express myself in a foreign language; my husband of 13 years who taught me about perseverance because after 2 Kidney transplants and 5 years of dialysis he still fights; and finally, my daughter who teaches me how to love unconditionally.
These people have been a source of inspiration for me, and I can only hope that I can play a similar role in the lives of my students. Last year, I was asked to pick a name for my advisory. I knew I had to choose a role model, a person who reflected my cultural identity and embodied the school’s core values of Leadership, Love, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility. I chose Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez was a labor organizer by trade, but his legacy rests on his unwavering commitment to social justice and improving the lives of others. Technically, my official job title is “Spanish Teacher.” But I don’t teach Spanish. I teach students. And I love every second of it.
Nancy Cubano is a founding member of the KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy faculty, and now serves as the Foreign Language Department Leader and Spanish II, III and AP teacher.