California Educator

August/September 2020

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 81

Why did you want to become a teacher? I wanted to change student lives and be involved with children. When I was in high school and college, I saw being a teacher or a child psychologist as an oppor- tunity to make a real difference. I taught first and second grade in Compton before coming to LAUSD as a fifth grade teacher and then as a second grade Intensive Academic Support teacher at Arlington Heights — right down the street from where I grew up. After a few years I ended up at Emerson Middle School teaching sixth grade English. Middle school has been my niche ever since. In your experience, how important are teachers as role models? My fifth grade teacher, Shelley Banks, was fantastic, a strong Black woman who really pushed us. She was tough — she didn't take any crap — but she opened her room at lunchtime and recess to help us. She was also big on critical thinking. She didn't just dump information into our heads, she taught us to think. I do the same. I'm an unconventional teacher. The mandated textbooks generally gather dust on my shelf because I address the standards but work with a broader group of materials. I have kids keep journals and write down their thoughts. I have my kids read To Kill a Mockingbird. People say it's a 10th grade novel, but I say younger students get a lot out of it, and they empathize with Tom Robinson being accused of something he didn't do. It really warms my heart when I hear from former students that I made a difference in their [lives]. With the recent uprisings I've been hearing [from them. One wrote:] "I saw your post about another student and just wanted to thank you for teaching us about racism and racial bias, ... sexual violence, classism, sexism, LGBTQ+ identities, privilege, and the immensely broken and outdated criminal justice system in the United States. Your class was one of the most influential I've ever taken — you shaped who I am as a person and a member of society." Those call- backs from former students are wonderful. How did you get involved in the union? I was an SEIU rep when I started as a classified teach- ing assistant in LA. During my second year teaching in Compton, somebody said I'd be great as a building rep. When I moved to LAUSD and joined UTLA, I started at a school with a real problem principal. She had been there nine years and had scared away employees. The envi- ronment was compounded by no books, no supplies. I knew I would need the union to help turn this around. I went to a union meeting, and several Reaching for E C I L Y M Y A R T - C R U Z was elected president of the 35,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles in Feb- ruary. e longtime educator and activist is the first woman of color to lead UTLA since its founding in 1970. She has played a key role in UTLA's organizing and actions in the second-largest school district in the nation, including the historic strike that saw more than 30,000 educators take to LA streets in 2019. Recently, UTLA's advocacy helped persuade the LAUSD school board to cut its police budget by $25 million and redirect money to school counselors and other school support services. An ardent social and racial justice advocate, Myart-Cruz is chair of the NEA Black Caucus and has been a member of NEA's Peace and Justice Caucus and Hispanic Caucus, among others. We checked in with the single mother and LAUSD parent as she assumed office in July. (is is an excerpt; for the full Q&A, see C Myart-Cruz addresses a crowd during UTLA's strike in 2019. Social and racial justice advocate Cecily Myart-Cruz steps into leadership role By Frank Wells the Stars Bloomberg 13 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 0 Spotlight

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - August/September 2020