By Hope Morales
When someone chooses a career in education, they most likely do it because they want to make a difference and help to change the world by giving students an opportunity to succeed. I wanted to be a role model for students who grew up like me. It was important for me to remain in and work with the children in my community. But remaining in my community also came with challenges. I worked in a system where I needed to prove myself at high levels in order to have an opportunity to continue to grow and develop in my career. I have been called an “overachiever” and a “hustler,” because I always did much more than expected. Part of it is because I am a problem solver and want to be part of the solution. Part of it is because I don’t believe that as a Hispanic female, I would have had an equitable opportunity to become a leader. I didn’t expect the system around me to change, so I changed the way I worked. In my role as a teacher, I excelled. In my journey to becoming an administrator, I excelled. I took on leadership roles whenever I could, and I was always hungry for new opportunities.
One such opportunity was to become a Fellow with Teach Plus New Mexico as part of the inaugural cohort in our state. The fellowship has been one of my favorite experiences. I had become a resource for other teachers because of all the knowledge and information I gained from my various teams and committees, but with Teach Plus I was more. I was no longer just a resource, I became part of the action plan. I collaborated with great teachers from across the state to conduct research and offer solutions on specific policy topics that focused on equitable opportunities for students and on building the teaching profession. In my current role as State Director, I get to impact education for New Mexico’s students far beyond my classroom. This is the opportunity I have always wanted to have. Although Teach Plus began for me and for others as a unique opportunity in New Mexico, it has become a necessity. We must have valuable educator input related to educational systems and policies that impact our classrooms and students. I learned pretty quickly that there were many more teachers outside of our policy fellowship that wanted to stay updated, wanted to learn, and wanted to have an opportunity to use their voice.
This fall, we launched a Teach Plus Network which brought together 50 teachers from across the state to learn more about the policymaking process at the district and state level. Teachers focused on the stages and considerations related to policy and learned about opportunities to use their voice in the process. They were thrilled to be involved. As one Network member put it: “Teach Plus New Mexico is an amazing avenue for teachers to learn how they can become involved in an effective, professional way.”
Teach Plus will continue to offer opportunities to New Mexico’s teachers through our network and policy fellowship to ensure teacher voice is at the table. Teachers will continue to work on a variety of educational topics including recruiting/retaining teachers of color, ensuring equitable opportunities for early childhood education, and developing an enhanced career ladder.
As for me, I have changed. I no longer seek additional opportunities for the sake of having them. I, a Hispanic female and native New Mexican, am creating a new path in education for teachers and students. I am collaborating with our best teachers and building partnerships with organizations, businesses, and communities to create opportunities for all New Mexico students, regardless of background and circumstances. One person can make a difference but together, we can change the world.
Hope Morales is Teach Plus New Mexico State Director. Prior to joining Teach Plus, Hope taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th grades in Roswell Independent School District and was the district’s Teacher on Special Assignment.