Teaching, Leading and Impacting Latino Students

By Elizabeth Aviles, St. Rafael the Archangel Middle School Teacher

A Journey of Support

Teaching is an exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling adventure. However, without the right support, it can be overwhelming. My first year teaching was overwhelming. At first, I did not feel like I would be a successful teacher because I did not have appropriate support. Then, after what felt like a turbulent first year, I applied to Seton Catholic Schools and found an abundance of support.

Within the Seton Catholic Schools network, I have been able to work one-on-one with a coach and mentor to improve my practice. Instructional coaches observe and meet with me once a week. They provide encouraging and constructive feedback. Mentors are there to listen and give advice. These supports have helped me become a better educator and professional.

Seton has helped me discover how much I have to offer professionally. Currently, I am forming professional development sessions with other teachers to share what we have learned with our colleagues. Public speaking is not my strong suit. However, now I have the opportunity to refine this skill and develop leadership skills with the support of our Seton community.

Cultural Ties

This is my second year at St. Rafael, a Seton Catholic School. The student population at St. Rafael is primarily Latino. When deciding to become an educator, I knew that I wanted to work in an urban setting and help Latino youth face their challenges. I am Mexican-American and a first-generation college graduate, and I believe that my background is imperative to share with my students. Students of color need to see people who look like them in a professional setting. I had few teachers growing up that reflected my cultural heritage, however, I felt a secure connection with my teachers that shared similar cultural experiences. As an educator today, I hope to make those same connections within the St. Rafael community.

Sense of Community

One of the highlights at St. Rafael is a strong sense of community. The staff, students and parents make the school feel like a second home. I genuinely believe that the sense of community comes from our Catholic values that are rooted in love, kindness and respect.

You can see those values during our community dinners at St. Rafael. Parents and students come to our school to share a meal and have the opportunity to see the student’s classroom. It’s a time to get to know one another and develop relationships with our families.

My favorite memory came last year. The sixth grade was able to teach everyone how to do the Macarena, and then we performed it as a school. Teachers, students, and even parents stood up and danced together. It demonstrated the true joy and love in our community.