Menlo Park Hometown Heroes

Another inspiring Hometown Hero nomination to announce: Menlo Park resident and Ravenswood School District 8th grade teacher Andrea Reyna!

During this Covid-19 pandemic, Andrea made the compassionate decision to leave her prior teaching position and seniority in another school district, and bring her expertise to teaching students in the underserved Ravenswood School District. And she did it at a time she was enduring brain surgery and recovery. Andrea shares her community empowering courageous journey in her own words below.

Thank you Andrea!

“On the eve of major brain surgery to correct a Chiari Malformation, I met a Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School 8th grader at the barber shop. I was talking with her grandmother about life. Little by little, the student joined in. The teacher in me couldn’t help but include her. She talked about how her education was adversely impacted by frequently having inexperienced teachers and teachers who didn’t stay longer than a year or two. That conversation struck me deep. I’m in my tenth year of teaching in the United States. That puts me in the category of “veteran teacher”. Each of those years has been in middle school. I absolutely love working with middle schoolers. They are in some of the toughest years of their lives and they need lots of love, support, and humor.

“The truth is, I’d thought about leaving my now former district off and on for a couple of years. I’d thought about the importance of watering the grass where I live. I’ve lived in Belle Haven for the better part of 9 years. My mom joined me, my husband, and my cats over 7 years ago. Menlo Park is very much our home and community. Recovering from multiple brain surgeries afforded me the time to think very deeply about where I want to serve others. As I rebuilt my strength walking up and down the streets with my walker and my mom with her walker, I knew the time had long come for me to serve the community I call home.

“It wasn’t easy to leave my old school. I taught there for 8 years and love my students very much. As a teacher of emergent bilinguals (kiddos who are new to the US), I would often have students for multiple years which only strengthened our bond. Changing jobs in the middle of a pandemic and economic depression is complicated. I gave up 8 years of seniority and am now at risk of losing my job if Proposition 15 (Schools and Community First) doesn’t pass in November. It’s a risk. It’s a roll of the dice, but I know deep in my heart that it was the right decision to make.

“I am so incredibly happy to be serving my community and serving the students I’ve seen grow up over the years. Covid-19 has hit our community pretty hard. My 8th graders are missing a big year for them. The isolation is tough on everyone. It’s harder to focus on school when you are at home in often crowded situations. I’m fortunate that my family gave up space so that I could build a home classroom. Like many, I have multiple health issues that put me at high risk from Covid-19. While many educators and students would rather be in person, we also understand that it’s not safe.

“A lot of folks underestimate middle schoolers. Don’t. They are utterly amazing and they are fired up to change their community and the world for the better. Covid-19, the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and far too many others, and the Black Lives Matter movement have turned a lot of light on systemic racism in their lives. The awful air quality caused by climate crisis fires have also made them extra aware of the need to fight climate change. Social Studies classes at CCRMS are focusing the first trimester on social justice and supporting students in developing plans to serve the community. Times may be dark, but to paraphrase Dumbledore, happiness can still be found if we remember to turn on the light. Young people are the light and we must do all we can to make the world a better place and to support their efforts and energies to make that happen.

“Civil rights activist Ella Baker has had a major influence on my life choices. She said that folks need to think of themselves as functioning where there is a need, not in terms of making a contribution. Ravenswood students have a need for experienced teachers. I’m an experienced teacher who now lives and teaches in Ravenswood. There’s a need each of us can fill.

“Not sure where to start? Join #CaliforniansForAll.”

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