Education is Power

“Up in the mornin’ and out to school
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule” 

[Lyrics to “School Days”, Chuck Berry]

Tailleen Arias

Loyola Elementary/Doral Conservatory and School of the Arts 
Founder and CEO

Who was the most influential teacher in your life and why?

I believe that every teacher in our lives affects us in some way. The teacher I remember the most is Mrs. Portuondo, she was my faith formation teacher in elementary. Her class helped me to develop my spirituality and brought meaning to my adult life. The extraordinary lessons we learn as children are a life-long treasure.

What would you like others to understand about your profession?

Teaching is the noblest, most fulfilling and humbling career. Education is not for people who want a job—teaching is a calling. We are giving students tools for changing the world in the future. I truly believe that good education changes societies. 

What’s advice you’d give to a parent in regards to raising healthy, happy children?

My advice to a parent in regards to raising healthy, happy children would be consciousness and continued education. Being a parent today is a big challenge but at the same time we have great information at our fingertips. Conscious parents connect with children using emotional intelligence. Reading, taking workshops or finding a coach are some of the tools parents should use, especially in early childhood development. 

What’s at the top of your bucket list to experience?

My top educational bucket list has to be to look back in 20 years and see our creative educational teaching methods be more accessible for families of all economic and social environments. Every child is unique and incomparable, and not all of then fit in our current one-size-fits-all education. As Albert Einstein said, “I believe in standardizing automobiles, I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”

Javier Rodriguez

Doral Academy
AP European History and 11th grade US History

What was your nickname growing up? Did you dislike it or come to terms with it?

Growing up the only nickname I could remember was “Javi,” which was just a shortened version of my name. While I was a cadet in college some people in my class occasionally called me “Cake.” Some people thought it had something to do with my trouble meeting the Army weight requirements, but originally it came from me constantly replying “It was cake, sir” to anything I had to do that was obviously strenuous or difficult. My attempt at some light cheekiness.

Had you not pursued this profession, what was plan B?

Well, many professions were always up in the air for me. Something in law enforcement, or law, or even politics really. I don’t know that any of those were a specific “plan B,” but if I had to pick one it would likely be something in law enforcement.

If you could give a shout out to one teacher that was a positive influence on you, who would that be?

Picking only one is tough, as three immediately come to mind. Professor Beardsworth, Thomas de Quesada, and Mr. Carlos Maza. Of the three, I think the most memorable would be Thomas de Quesada, but it’s a close race between them.

Did you lean more toward the jocks, the nerds, or the thespians?

I was, and am, definitely a nerd, through and through, no question about it.

What is essential to be a teacher? Perhaps a quality that is needed to really connect with students? 

It’s a tie between patience, consistency, and integrity. I think connections need to happen within the context of the environment, and like any relationship, they can’t be forced. As a teacher you’re modeling something to your students: an acceptable way to be. In order to do that, I’ve found, it doesn’t matter if you’re strict or lenient, serious or funny, so long as you’re consistent with the way you treat every student. If you treat every student equally, with the same consequences, then everyone knows what to expect, and that allows positive relationships to form.

What’s a book you read in high school that was impactful? 

My favorite book is Shogun, by James Clavell, and the runner up might be Tai-Pan, by the same author. It was a history teacher who assigned it to me as extra credit, and I read it while I was in surgery that year, but never did the extra credit. I suppose it foreshadowed me teaching history.

Sarah Jimenez

Divine Savior Academy
Co-Director of College Counseling and High School Teacher

When was your “a-ha” moment when you knew teaching was your calling in life? 

My first year of teaching I quickly realized how much influence I had in my students’ daily lives. I had the power to make them feel good about themselves and make them want to learn so they would work to their full potential. It’s really rewarding when students love your class and tell you how much they’ve learned about something they didn’t even know they’d be interested in, those are my “a-ha” moments.

Had you not pursued this profession, what was plan B? 

Law school with the goal of becoming a family court judge.

If you could give a shout out to one teacher that was a positive influence on you, who would that be?

I had many great teachers but my Psychology teacher Mr. Naples, and my guidance counselor Mrs. Velez were the ones that really made a difference in my attitude towards school and learning. They not only loved what they did but they cared about students.

Did you lean more toward the jocks, the nerds, or the thespians? 

I’m really not athletic so I definitely wasn’t a jock and I was somewhat shy so not a thespian, I guess because I did well academically I would lean more towards the nerds.

What’s the one thing most people get wrong about teachers that you’d like to clarify? 

Teaching is like no other profession and having summers off really is a necessity. When you teach, the spotlight is on you all day and that’s exhausting. You’re expected to be a fountain of knowledge while meeting the needs of many different students all at the same time. You definitely need to be a good multitasker. It’s like being a parent except 100 times more intense so you really do need to have time and energy to develop a plan about how to build a relationship with your classes so that students know they’ll be treated fairly and will respect you. Having the summers off helps teachers recharge his or her spirit. It helps us reflect on what worked and what didn’t work and revise our approach for the upcoming school year. Most teachers even when they’re off are working and preparing. It really is draining, so having that time off keeps us effective and balanced.

Name a book you read in school that truly impacted you? 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. As a first generation American I really

identified with the struggles the main character faced trying to not lose and be proud of her culture while also adapting to another culture. 

Frosted Flakes or Cap’n Crunch? 

Neither. I’m more of a Lucky Charms kind of girl.

Tom Welch

Divine Savior Academy
Director of College Counseling


What was your nickname growing up? Did you dislike it or come to terms with it?

My family, friends, teachers, and coaches all called me “Tommy,” some still do.

Had you not pursued this profession, what was plan B?

I was thinking about a career in law or business. 

If you could give a shout out to one teacher that was a positive influence on you, who would that be? 

My English Professor Gerald Hall convinced me that a classroom could be FUN! As his student, I began to observe what characteristics I liked in teachers and those I didn’t. Convinced I could make learning fun for me as teacher and for students, I switched my major to education.

Did you lean more toward the jocks, the nerds, or the thespians?

In high school, I wrestled, and played baseball and football. Most of my friends then were athletes, too. As a teacher, I’ve coached high school football and baseball, and a variety of sports on the middle school level.

Do you still remember the name of the gal you took to prom?

I do. Her name was Jackie. More importantly, Pamela is the name of my wife of 34 years (insert wink at leisure). 

What’s a book you read in high school that was impactful? 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It helped me understand the sorrow of materialism.  

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