Meet a Teacher
1st Grade English Language Arts Cyderia Gates
2nd Grade Math and Writing Uriel Mayen-Lugo
2nd Grade Stevie Johnson
As a former social worker, Cyderia recognized that her passion was in helping others to learn and grow. When her chosen career didn’t fulfill her desire to teach, she sought out opportunities in her church and groups in her community. A random Internet search led her to TNTP and the Nevada Teacher Corps, where she joined the inaugural cohort in 2016-17. Today, Cyderia teaches 1st grade at Imagine 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas. “I grew up in Detroit and went to public schools all my life. I was very fortunate to have great teachers. My philosophy is, our kids deserve a chance, just like I had one.”
ALL CHILDREN DESERVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REALIZE THEIR POTENTIAL—NO MATTER THEIR STARTING PLACE
My first year as a teacher, many of my 4th graders were reading at Pre-K levels. Some had never read a chapter book. Many of these kids confided in me that the never felt challenged by their past teachers.
From day one, the Nevada Teacher Corps emphasizes the importance of teaching all children at grade level. This is good pedagogy, but it’s also about showing our students that you respect them. By challenging them and pushing them, you’re telling them, “I believe in you. I believe in your ability. I believe in your future.”
I’m here to help these children realize their potential. Of course, that’s not an easy thing to do with a classroom of 25 students with their own learning needs. My coaches at NTC helped me not only see the importance of teaching to the standards, they also made sure I had the high quality complex texts to challenge and engage my students.
MY COACHES WERE MY PERSONAL LIFELINE THROUGH MY FIRST YEAR IN THE CLASSROOM
My coaches through Pre-Service Training and TNTP Academy were more to me than mentors. They made me feel like I was a member of a tight-knit family—pushing me hard to be more professional, to get better every day.
The lesson plan I worked on last night could always be improved by adding just one more thing and, again, one more thing. It was that constant push that helped me become the teacher I am today.
Whenever I have a question or just need someone to talk to, my coaches are still there for me. I don’t believe I’d be in the classroom today without their help. I just reach out—any time of day—and my coaches will point me to this approach, this strategy, this anchor chart. That support is invaluable.
Uriel, a political science major, took a teaching assistant position in a local school until he figured out what he wanted to do next. But, inside the classroom he discovered a passion and a talent for teaching. Watching his natural interaction with students, his colleagues asked him when he would become a full-time teacher. “After a while, as my interest in teaching and enjoyment working with the kids grew, I no longer had a good answer. I discovered I was really passionate about teaching.” Uriel joined the inaugural cohort of the Nevada Teacher Corps in 2016-17. Today, he teaches math and writing at Marzano Academy at Lomie G. Heard ES.
GOOD TEACHERS KNOW ACADEMIC CONTENT. GREAT TEACHERS KNOW THEIR STUDENTS.
Every time I step into the classroom, my goal is to bridge the gap between my students and the academic content we expect them to learn—and get them excited in the process. To do that, I need to know who they are as individuals.
Teachers need to have a deep understanding of the material they are teaching, but we also need to understand our students and their experiences, to help them really connect with the content. They have a lot to share. My job is to help them see the connections between their lives and the academic content.
I’ll start each class by sharing something about my background, and then encourage them to do the same. We can build an exciting lesson by connecting our own stories to the texts we’re reading. I’m happiest when I watch them start discussing a book character and make references to their own lives.
NEVADA SCHOOLS PLAY A ROLE IN NEVADA’S FUTURE
I’m new to Nevada, but I see role of teachers here to become a part of the communities we work with, building strong relationships, and helping students and their families strengthen their own connections. Nevada’s future depends on this next generation and, as educators, we play a big role in that.
Stevie graduated from University of California-San Diego with a degree in international studies - political science. Committed to helping the most vulnerable, after college she began working with refugees in the U.S. before deciding to teach English as a Second Language in France. Discovering a passion for education, Stevie moved to Senegal to accept a teaching position at an International Baccalaureate high school. After deciding to return to the United States, Stevie applied for and was accepted as part of the inaugural cohort of the Nevada Teacher Corps. Today, she teaches second grade at Bertha Ronzone Elementary School. “I found my passion in the classroom, but Nevada Teacher Corps helped me develop into the effective teacher that my students deserve.”
NEVADA TEACHER CORPS SHAPED ME INTO THE TEACHER I AM TODAY
To be a great teacher, you have to do so many things well: content knowledge, lesson planning, classroom management, student relationships, parent communications. It can seem overwhelming because, well, it is.
On my first day of training, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I had to learn. But the coaches and staff at NTC helped me develop a plan to get to and through my first day of school. They sequenced the information I needed in a way that helped me improve every single day. Just as scaffolding information for students can be effective, you can’t give a new teacher everything on Day One.
During Pre-Service Training, the staff started with classroom management and Teach Like a Champion strategies. Throughout my first year in the classroom, my coaches were always one step ahead, anticipating the knowledge and skills that I’d need to be successful—giving me the next thing right when I needed it.
WE RESPECT CHILDREN BY MAKING SURE THEY HAVE A GREAT EDUCATION
I’ve taught students around the world, but I’m excited to be here in Nevada, where there’s still so much work to be done. We have students from low-income families, students whose first language isn’t English, and students whose parents are forced to move frequently for work that aren’t getting the education they deserve.
Nevada Teacher Corps places an emphasis on making sure teachers have the supportive and positive mindset they need to give all students a great education. I learned about the biases I bring to the classroom and that helped me see the assets every one of my students bring. All children need a teacher that can offer them a stable learning environment.