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ThankATeacher The Most Important Bus Ride

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4 – 8), we’re saying ‘thank you’ to the extraordinary people who work so hard to inspire student success, even beyond the classroom walls.  We asked NMSI team members to reflect on some of the amazing teachers who have made a difference in their lives. Today, our brand manager Elliot Mayen shares his memories of his first-grade teacher Ms. Gomez. Throughout the week, we’ll continue to tell our stories and we invite you to add your own in the comments section below.
 I started first grade at Sam Houston Elementary School in Dallas, Texas shortly after moving to the United States from Mexico. Since I had no real knowledge of the English language other than what little I had picked up from my ritual Sesame Street viewings, I was placed in the bilingual program with a young teacher named Ms. Gomez.  Although her classroom was bilingual on paper, in practice she had higher expectations for her students and slowly, but surely, we left behind the Spanish parts of our lessons. While my parents spoke to me exclusively in Spanish at home, Ms. Gomez relentlessly pressed forward with my English instruction, and by year’s end, I was promoted into an all-English classroom. I left Ms. Gomez’s classroom after first grade, but she didn’t leave me. She checked up on me throughout my years at Sam Houston, visited with my parents, kept an eye on my grades and often offered suggestions on what I should read.
In third grade, I was selected for a small, weekly “talented and gifted” (TAG) class. I didn’t understand what that meant, nor was I eager for difficult assignments, and so I resisted. But Ms. Gomez convinced me that I could do it. With her motivation and coaching, I found success and truly began to enjoy the type of projects we were involved with more than those in my regular classroom. In hindsight, I can see this was probably a test of sorts; at the end of that year, Ms. Gomez persuaded my parents to have me apply for the full TAG program at K.B. Polk Elementary. This was a daunting proposition for both my parents and for me. To a family of recent immigrants, the prospect of bussing a child off to a different part of town was fraught with peril, not in the least because of the language barriers. But Ms. Gomez’s good intentions and belief in my potential proved too convincing for my parents. I applied and was accepted into the program.
This is the event that I believe changed the course of my life. Without Ms. Gomez’s intervention, I would have never gotten on that bus. I would have never been exposed to a diverse group of peers, different in so many ways from the people I would have otherwise grown up around. I would have never discovered my passion for the arts or my ability to consume books like drinking water or the extent of my academic capabilities. I would have never ended up a student in NMSI’s College Readiness Program at TAG Magnet High School, or a student at Southern Methodist University with enough AP credits to devote enough time to my art and theory classes to find my calling in the visual arts and communication. The sum of these parts has created the person I am today, but none of it would have been possible if not for that one person who believed in me at the beginning and refused to accept my failure as an option.