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Wes: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Teacher Interview podcast.
I'm your host, Wes Kriesel. I work as Director of Innovation and Instructional Support in Fullerton School District, and every week we sit down and get to know a teacher better. My goal is to learn what drives and guides teachers, especially when venturing into that risky territory of trying something new.
Join me. Today we spend time with Adriana Rata. She teaches first grade dual language academy at Raymond Elementary.
Well, welcome Adriana welcome to the podcast. We're so glad for you to be here with us today.
Adriana: Thanks for having me.
Wes: So we're gonna do a little bit of, of talking about just how you got into teaching, what that was [00:01:00] like for you, and then we, we have done a little bit of pre-interview work. Okay. Contacting people that you connected us with and we'll hear what they think about you and how it relates to teaching. And then we'll just ask you to react to that.
Adriana: Sounds good.
Wes: Alright. So to start off with tell me how you became a teacher.
Adriana: It was a little not what I wanted at first. I started my career as an engineer major. That was my first, that's what I wanted to do.
But then somehow once I got to college, it, everything changed. I started a program at UC, Santa Barbara. It was called La Escuelita . So we will go, it's like school in Spanish. . And so we will go to different schools around the area. And we'll tutor the kids, we will have tutoring at the park.
And I really enjoyed it. I really liked it. Engineering was hard too, so that had to do with it. So I decided to change and I [00:02:00] just got really involved into a lot of things that had to do with school and with the kids. I learned that we had the dual immersion program, so I got my teaching credential plus the dual immersion program to teach.
Wes: So at UC Santa Barbara. You got a dual immersion credential?
Adriana: No. So I went to Santa Barbara and I did a Spanish major with a minor in teaching. And then I went to Loyola Marymount and I got my credential there with the dual immersion.
Wes: Wow. How was that experience? Did you find the classes, I mean, maybe there's a little, a bit of hindsight applied, but did you find the classes helpful looking back or?
Adriana: They were helpful in a way, but it was not a theory. So once you get to actually being a teacher in your own classroom, you get to experience the real. Teaching. A lot of times when you go to college, they always tell you the theory part and how this could help this class or this is gonna support you by classroom management or science, teaching science or teaching math.
[00:03:00] But once you're into the classroom, that's when you really get to experience teaching and what works in your classroom and what doesn't work in your classroom. So I really, really enjoyed it. I did a lot of volunteering and I went back to my high school that I graduated from and I did, I worked there as a teacher assistant.
And I got to, it was a high school, so that. It was nice to have high school experience and that made me decide that I need to go to elementary school because it was,
Wes: I Like how positive you are.
Adriana: It was a good spirit just to see that. But yeah, I, the kids are really the, I love first grade, second grade. The younger kids that really, that's where I like to be at.
Wes: And there's probably somebody, and maybe it's me who has the opposite of it experience. You know, the little kids are for other people.
Adriana: Yes, that's true. That's true.
Wes: Yeah. So that's [00:04:00] interesting.
Adriana: I Mean, I did had to when I was in middle school, so I came, I was born in Colombia, so when I came to the United States, I was 13 and I didn't have any English language at all. I didn't know how to speak English. So those two teachers that were with me in middle school, they really helped me a lot.
Wes: And where did you go to middle school?
Adriana: In Long Beach. So when I came to the United States, I've been living in Long Beach, my whole, the rest of my life until now.
Besides going to Santa Barbara and coming back.
Wes: But do you still live in Long Beach?
Wes: Oh, that's great.
I went back to Long Beach.
Adriana: So it was, those two teachers really helped me too. I still get in contact with one of them. . So when I decided to become a teacher, I talked to her and that was really it really helped me.
It was really nice to, to see that and to hear her experience and because she's also she also came at a later age. And so, and she came from Central America. So it was nice to have that experience for her to tell me that, her [00:05:00] experience. And for me to get that before deciding to
Wes: Did you know that part of her story when you were a student?
Adriana: I knew that she, like, she was speaking to me in, in Spanish sometime, so I knew that she was coming from, but I didn't know the whole story about her coming or her deciding to be a teacher or why that she decided to be a teacher. So it was nice to have that as a, an adult, not as a kid.
Wes: And do you remember that moment where you're like, oh, this is a different relationship, suddenly, like she's telling me about her personal journey into teaching.
Wes: What was that like?
Adriana: It was awesome. I mean, it was interesting because then. Like I said, it's hard. It's sometimes different to picture. You as a teacher in your classroom cause they tell you all these stories and they tell you all these great things that it's very rewarding, which it is. But they also don't tell you all the behind the scenes things that you also have to do as a teacher. So it was nice to, for her to be [00:06:00] completely honest and tell me, All the behind the scenes, like you just don't go and just stand in a classroom and teach, right? Like you have to prepare for it. You have to get things ready. You have to learn your what your kids like. How are your kids? So you have to really, really get to know your class, to know what works for your class, and every year is different. Every year you have different kids that maybe what worked last year is not gonna work this year. So you have to like adjust.
Wes: Yeah. So I mean, you have such a, a unique circumstance and then you had a teacher who almost had a similar, like a parallel of coming to United States and then learning English and then becoming a teacher. Do you find was all her advice about teaching or was there other information or wisdom that she could share about that journey? About learning? Like what was the teaching experience like for her that maybe some of her colleagues who grew up here [00:07:00] didn't know or appreciate in the same way? Was, was it that. Was there that kind of information shared or was it more just like about teaching?
Adriana: It was more just about teaching. I think she came much younger than I did.
Wes: Oh, okay.
Adriana: So it was a little different because at 13 you're already a little older. Teenager almost in, it's, it's different. It's a different than when you come like at seven years old or eight years old. So that was a little different in that sense. Because you have to, I had to like, take this. And my experience was a little different that Yeah, when when you start at seven years old, you pick up the English a lot faster, right? And then when I came was a little difficult in a sense of the language. It was a tough journey.
Wes: Yeah. Yeah. But it's good. You had, she was, she saw something. But where she could encourage you. That was good. So how did, how did you end up, was Fullerton where you started teaching or?
Adriana: No, I started teaching. So when I went to Loyola Marymount, I think I have a [00:08:00] really good models. My director of my program, the bilingual program, lmu she lived in Long Beach. She was a teacher at Long Beach Unified, so she really helped me a lot in that sense too. So I have really good models. When I finished there, then I started applying. I decided to do dual immersion. So I started at a charter school. In Los, in LA I did, I I was there for three years. And the whole school was bilingual? It was a, a school that had just started. They were there when I started. They had been there for like three years. So it was real, really new. So it was. I'd say an interesting an interesting journey.
Wes: You're very gifted journey at staying on the, the positive side.
Adriana: Positive. Which is, that'd be positive. That'd be positive. It's a good lesson. It's it was an interesting journey. Very helpful in a way of because like I said, that first year [00:09:00] as a teacher, it's tough because you don't know any better than what you've seen other people do, but when you come as a, let's say when I did my student teaching, I. I was teaching, but I still have my master's teacher right there next to me so she was still like, the kids knew that she was there. It was different than having my own classroom. And being in there by myself. And I was like, what am I gonna do? So it was a really, like, it was a struggle. . At first, yeah. It was a struggle at first.
Wes: You're not alone. I mean, my first year's teaching - I was gonna say horrible. But I'm learning from you to be positive. We're great learning experiences.
Adriana: Exactly. You learn from everything. In life and in, yeah. I work and everything. So it was, so I started at, at a church school. But it was really far from my house as well, so I was still living in Long Beach. But I had to commute. The way back will take me like two hours sometimes. So I decided to change. That was one of the reasons why I decided to change. And then I [00:10:00] found out that Fullerton was opening dual immersion program. And they had just opened the previous year. And they wanted a first grade teacher, and I've only done first grade my whole five years since I've been teaching. . So it's been first grade, so I was like, great, this is my opportunity.
Wes: That's so good.
Adriana: I need to go in. So I did it and I applied and I went through the process and I was very happy. It's a really great district and I'm very happy to. Be here.
Wes: That's great.
Adriana: Yeah. And it's much that can be as much, much, much smaller. Yeah. Yeah. That's good. So that was another plus.
Wes: So let's tap back into the, the first years where you said yes, there was a lot of learnings going on. What's one thing, looking back, if you were kind of paired up with a brand new teacher, somebody day one in the classroom, what's something you would reflect back on and say, if only they knew this. Like that was something that I struggled with my first six months, nine months, year. What would you tell somebody who's like brand, brand new, something that you think, gosh, I wish I would've learned that a little [00:11:00] quicker. What comes to mind?
Adriana: I think, now, that comes to mind it's classroom management. That's always, that was, that was one of the things that I, that I really worked on. And I, I mean, I would say not to feel so frustrated. Like it is not, sometimes at first, at first it was like, oh, like I'm horrible. Like, what am I doing? I'm not doing anything good. Like, they're not learning anything.
But it's not, yeah. Like they're actually learning and it's just being calm. I mean, it's hard. It's hard to do it. It's easier to say. It's hard to do it. But just be calm and, and know that, get to know your kids. And that would be the first thing, you know, get to know your kids. Get to know your class. Get to know who they are, what they like. And if you put yourself and you give them, be honest with them and give them a little more of like, this is me when I was in first grade for doing first grade. This is me. So put yourself in there as well. It'll be. They could relate back to that and they could respond, [00:12:00] have a positive respond to those stories or to those ideas of you sharing a little bit of view with them. I think,
Wes: So you said multiple things there, so it's like getting to know your students. So that's, that's sort of being perceptive about them. But then you also said sharing about yourself so that you are maybe sharing stories or something so they could see how you were as a student. So that was another thing. And there was at least two other things you said. So gimme a specific example of like, how would you share something, cause sometimes teachers might be told, don't share about yourself personally. It's too much. So what's something you, you. Could say like, this is, this has worked for me. Like this is something my students would relate to, or they'd be curious about, or it'd be helpful and it wouldn't, wouldn't be like, you know, a weird place to share too much information or something.
Adriana: I think the first time that I [00:13:00] did, I always have or I to have Like a mini of pictures of like a PowerPoint presentation. Pictures of me. Or things that I like. So I, maybe I put, I don't have pictures of me when I'm first grade. I don't really remember, but I put pictures of me with, like in Colombia. So I always tell them I was born in Colombia. I want 'em to also, like, since I'm a dual immersion, I want 'them to realize that I didn't came, like I wasn't born here. So I understand you learning a different language. Right.
Wes: Oh, that's powerful.
Adriana: So even though sometimes I don't know that I speak English, but it's, is, it's nice to have that in there and just tell 'them it's, it's hard to learn a different language. So I would always tell 'them, I come from Colombia. I wasn't born there. I have no idea what I was doing. So I always put that in my pictures. I wasn't married at that point, so I didn't put anything of that. And that's one of the things that I don't, when it becomes the awkward part of like, oh [00:14:00] yeah, Mary and then you have kids, like they'll ask a lot of questions. So I don't go there. So I'll go based on like, my background was like, this is who I am. This is what I like or my favorite subject. A lot of kids love math and that's i'll, that's one of the things that I always go to in math. So I do like a little presentation of pictures, of things that I like. . And things that they can look back and know me as a person. And not just like, A teacher, the authority, like Oh, as a teacher, but have a little more personal.
Wes: That's great. So just even sharing pictures and kind of where you. Like, I mean, for example, for dual immersion, just saying, I grew up in another country and I had to learn.
Just saying that is so much of kind of a, a bond or sharing or offer, at least offering a bond, even if they don't, you know, totally see the connection. So that seems like very sympathetic to where [00:15:00] they're coming from and that that could possibly help develop those relationships. That's cool.
What's, what's a one before we kind of move into the other quotes we have, what's one, maybe classroom management tip or principal or technique or just something that stuck with you from the kind of the very first days?
Adriana: I use a lot of songs. Songs to like a cleanup song. It's, mm-hmm.
So it's cleanup song, so songs to get them. Are you a good singer? No. That's why I use the songs. I'll try to sing. I'll sing. Only when we have to sing. Just play. Say, I'll play the ta. I mean, they know the song and we could sing the song. Yeah. But I use a lot of songs to that. So like a cleanup song? Yeah.
I use a song. A little more calm. Hmm. Song to like, it's time to be quiet. Transition. Exactly. Transitions or it's time to be quiet. That's cool. Yeah. I also use I like to use a lot of positive reinforcement. Yeah. So like we, right now we have a [00:16:00] bingo. Mm-hmm. So we use the bingo, the bingo cart, and every in, you either use it for like when someone's being kind, or let's say we're working on cleaning up.
Mm-hmm. And so every time they'll do it and then do like a, we'll put a cart in our bingo cart. Mm. And once they fill it up, then we have like a celebration of it. Oh, that's cool. So I, I got this idea from another teacher, but it was, it, it is just, and I try to change things like every so often. Okay.
Because I don't want 'em to like get bored or get Yeah. Just it's like, oh, we already did this. We're doing this the same thing over, over, over again. So I like to change things. Around. Mm-hmm. Or, or, okay. Today we're gonna do the bingo for like a couple months. Yeah. And then like next trimester. Then it's like, okay, so this time we're gonna do this to, and then they'll get excited and they're really, really engaged into like, okay, I need to be ready to Yeah.
Get that bingo or get this done. Yeah. So I try to give a lot of [00:17:00] positive reinforcement with that. So it's, we'll get something just for positive reinforcement. Right. And we don't take out, if. We don't do it. Yeah. Okay.
I get when you, you said we're gonna do this for the trimester and then we're gonna do something.
I mean, I got excited. I'm like, I'm like, oh, and I just sense this, like you have this ability to sell the idea that you have to, your students like to get them excited cuz I'm like, how did you just get me, like, anticipating what, what's coming next trimester? I'm not even in class. Like, so part of it is kind of that using.
Excitement or anticipation. Yes. Like keeping things fresh, like you said. But that's part of a, a management strategy is to like peak their curiosity. Right. Keep them interested. Yes. That's interesting. I love that. So we're gonna transition to some, some quotes here. So we have so one of the questions that I asked is What is one word to represent Adriana.[00:18:00]
Okay. And we have, we have three people. Mm-hmm. So your husband John, interested Rosanna Fonseka, who works at our district office and she helps with our English learner programs. And then we also have our other one was Colleague Elma. Right. Okay. So I'm going, you know, three people. Mm-hmm. I'm gonna say the three words.
Okay. And then you're just kind of trying to scramble who said what. Okay. And it could be just horribly embarrassing or, yeah, it could be, but you know, it's just a fun game. Okay. So one word was caring. Okay. One word was steady and one word was driven. Hmm. So, I'm just curious who, can you repeat those again please?
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So one word is caring. Caring. Driven. Driven. And
steady And steady. Steady,
huh? So your husband, district, office or colleague,
steady, I think Rosana would say that.
So that is absolutely right. Yes. So you got, you got one for three. Yeah. You're
one for three. The other one was [00:19:00] driven and Caring.
Caring who? I'm gonna say caring for Elma.
And then that means your husband says you're driven. Driven. Okay. It's actually the opposite way. Opposite almost. So that's interesting. Almost. Almost. That's interesting. Almost. So which one of those words stands out? Caring, driven, or Steady. Which one of those do you identify with?
Or just, you know, is like your, your favorite word?
They said it, so I can't say, I don't identify with any of them. I'm kidding. No. I mean, I'm very lucky to have them and to say those great things about me.
Do you think you're more caring, more driven, or more steady? Which one would you just kind of say?
Yeah, I'll, I'll put that one first and then why?
I'm gonna say and
it's not like you're saying one of them was more Right. It's just, just like caring. Okay. Caring. Why, [00:20:00] why do you
say that? I think I, I, in inside my classroom, I really care about my kids. I really want to get to know them. Like I'd said before, you know, it's just It breaks my heart, they'll cry.
Like obviously I don't show it. Mm-hmm. But it's just that idea of like, I don't want them to feel bad. Mm-hmm. I don't want them to suffer or get hurt or anything like that. Yeah. So I, I try to, to have that connection with them and also with my friends and my colleagues and, and, and at home as well. I, I try to, to have a little bit for like, Something happens, or like my husband, he's been working a lot mm-hmm.
Lately, like up to midnight. Mm-hmm. And so I try to like do something or like send him a text or something like, yeah, I don't wanna bother you, but like, here's a little something. You can do it. Like, we're almost there. Yeah. We're almost on vacation or something like that. Something to like, just encourage him and he's gonna be okay and he's gonna be fine and, and you can [00:21:00] do it and Oh, that's great.
Just things here and there that I, I think. I could, yeah.
Be one of the things. Yeah. It's interesting when you talked about the caring side in the classroom. I, I mean, I'm re reminded, your students are so young. Mm-hmm. So young, and it doesn't take. Much of anything to upset you because, you know, school is pretty much brand new, you know, things are confusing.
So that's, that's a really, and that's true throughout, you know, students career and school is, is things are upsetting and confusing and life is not always completely, you know, clear to us. But especially when we're. The students are so young. Yes. You know, so I really appreciate that, that empathy.
And you said you don't want 'em to hurt or suffer. Like I really, really appreciate that. That seems like it could be a little bit of a burden maybe, cuz you do, like you can't really protect them from everything. Exactly. So how do you balance it's interesting, you did say something [00:22:00] like, you know, I care so much, but I don't always let them see.
Like how much I care. So do you wanna talk about that balance?
I mean, I let them see how much I care. Mm-hmm. Because I want 'em to know that, even if I tell you like, this is not what we need to be doing right now. Even if I have to like be a little firm with them mm-hmm. And tell 'em like, this is not how we do this, then I, I also want them to know that I'm doing it because I want them to succeed because I want them to do good.
Mm-hmm. Because I care. Like, if I wouldn't care, then I wouldn't really care about what you're doing. Like, oh, you're doing it bad, then that's fine, you know? Oh well. Let's move on. Yeah, no. Like I, I want 'em to know that this is why I'm doing it. Yeah. Because I care. Because I want you to succeed because you have so much, you know, like I, I really want them to, to know that Yeah.
That all the things that, and I tell them all the things. This is what I'm telling you. This is because I want you to do good in this. Mm-hmm. Because I want you to go to second grade, ready to go and like mm-hmm. You know, learn a lot of things. So I always tell 'em those things. Yeah. So that's why I want them to know, but I also want 'em to [00:23:00] know that when we, when I say certain things, that I need to be a little more serious about certain things that they know that I'm also serious.
Yeah. Because this is something that we really need to talk about. Yeah. And not so much of like Me not caring or me not showing Right. That side of,
yeah. Well, I have a quote to share from you. Okay. And this is from Rosanna. So the, the question was one time when you were Adriana was acting like Adriana.
Okay. Like only could, so she said on the first day of school during your first year mm-hmm. Many parents were nervous about the dual language immersion program. Or is it called DLA Dual Language Academy? Is that what it is? Yes. Okay. And they were nervous what it would look like in the second year. So when you heard about this, you met with parents, you sent out information, you built relationships, and within the first week, those same parents shared how pleased they were with you in the future of the program.
Do you remember
this? I remember the first day of school. Yes. Yes. I do [00:24:00] remember it was last school year. Mm-hmm. And I mean, I was nervous too. It was my first time at the district, at the school. Mm-hmm. And I know those parents were nervous because that's the first class, so they were gonna get a new teacher every time.
So I know they we're nervous about who I was. They didn't know who I was. Mm-hmm. So I wrote a letter and I sent it the first. Week of school. Mm-hmm. Just explaining who I am the same way that I would tell my kids. I told them where I come from. I told them a little bit about me, my background, and I really, I like to talk to my parents.
Mm-hmm. I like to talk to them and just like sometimes joke around and just ha build that relationship with them as well. Mm-hmm. Because I think it's really important. I mean, I'm with their kids. Mm-hmm. A lot. Yeah. You know, a lot. The whole day almost. And so I, I want them to feel comfortable leaving them with me.
Yeah. Yeah. So I, I really want them to, to know that I care for their kids and to know that I'm there to [00:25:00] help them with whatever they need, that I'm there to support them and to help them in any way I can. Yeah. Like, I'm not here to just be the teacher. And if you tell me something, then. Sorry, it's my way or my way.
Right, right. But I want them to know that, like I'll take consideration what they tell me. Like I really like to reply to what they tell me and take take no note on that. Mm-hmm. So it was at the beginnings because I know that some parents, they're like, I don't know who she is. I don't know what this is.
And, and I know that they were a little, because I didn't get to meet them the first day, so I know they were a little concerned Right. The first day. Yeah. But after that, and once I got to know them, I know the parents that mentioned something, they, they came up to me later on and they were like, oh, like they were very, very nice.
Mm-hmm. They would come and help me and support me in any way. Yeah. Possible. So, I mean, it was a great experience [00:26:00] for me is having, Those parents with me. Yeah. I still talk to them. Yeah. And say hi. And it's just, it's nice. It's, it's great to have that relationship with the parents as well. Yeah.
And that, that leaning on someone else for support, like they would come in and support you.
So that actually brings us to a quote from Elma. And I'm gonna share that with you. And she says it's, it's there's not one moment, like you've been continuously a colleague she can lean on. And so she mentioned being a team player and flexible and open-minded, but this is the part that I wanted to share.
There have been time times when Elmas had to stay at school for a meeting and you'll offer to stay with her. And then there have been other times when she wasn't able to attend the meeting and you're, you would offer to attend the meeting. For her. Now, when I hear that, I'm, I'm like, wait, who's offering to go to meetings for people who's offering to stay longer at work?
is this true? Yeah. I mean, I, I stay you could ask my husband. He, when, [00:27:00] when he's up early, I, I usually get home pretty late. Hmm. And I, I am very, I try to be a lot like involved in a lot of things. I have a lot of adjunct duties or here things in there, community meetings. Mm-hmm. I like to be involved and, and yes, I sometimes she can stay and I'll offer to stay for her or just.
Let's say we have a committee meeting, for example, for, for our parents. And it's one per class, per grade level. Mm-hmm. And I always offer, it's hard for me to say no sometimes. Mm. She always tells me like, you never say no. And I was like, I know, I know. But, but I don't know. It's hard for me to say no sometimes.
So yeah, I mean, I try to help as much as I can. I, and if I, like I say right now, I don't have any kids right now, like on my own kids. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. My husband is working, so I, I mean, if I could help you in any way I can. Mm-hmm. And why not?
Yeah, [00:28:00] that's great. I might, I might keep your, oh, I'm busy right now.
Your phone number? I'm busy after three. I'm
sorry. Oh, okay. We're gonna end with this. We're al already at our time. Mm-hmm. But the last quote I just wanna share, this is on a more personal note. So your husband John said It was about a moment that he remembers and it was your wedding day. Okay.
He said You got married in Columbia? Yes. Friends and family were there. It was a fun night of celebration and dancing. He says, I don't really dance, but he says I did that day. Haha. And then he said he offered emotional support, but you and the wedding planner kind of took the lead. And he said, you look beautiful in your wedding dress.
Oh, so just any reflections on getting married in Columbia and just anything you'd like to share. Response to his, his
memory. Yeah. He doesn't like dancing. No. He got that right. No. Yes. He doesn't like dancing. But he did it that day because he knew it was important for me. Mm. So I'm very thankful for that.
And [00:29:00] it was a great, I. I had a great time. All my family lives in Colombia. I only here with my mom and now my husband and he's part of the family. It's only him, his brother, and his mom. So there it's, it's hard for my family to come here. Sure. So it was just nice to, for us to go there. Yeah. And have that my whole family.
Cuz when I say my family's not just us. My immediate family is like my cousins, my uncles, like everybody. It's involved. So it was just great and nice to have them. There with us. Yeah. And he, even though he, he's not like a, oh, my family could be a lot. So for him, he's very calm. He doesn't like the dancing.
He's very like, likes to stay home. Mm-hmm. Like he just, he just got with it and he is like, okay, let's do it. Oh, that's great. It's okay. That's great. It's fine. So I'm very thankful to have him. Yeah, he obvious. Obviously cares, cares
[00:30:00] about you a lot. Thank you. Yeah. Well this has been really good and the time just flew, flew by.
Yes. So I just wanna say thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for inviting. I would love to come visit your class. Yes. And
And see the dual. That would be awesome. They'll teach you some Spanish, I bet.
I bet they will. All right. Thank you.
Wes: This has been the Teacher Interview podcast. Thank you for joining us.