Having a mentor in the field you want to pursue is vital — especially for students of color.
“If you have teachers who look like the students they’re serving, it makes a huge difference,” says Joe Camacho. The recent UW Master of Teaching graduate experienced this firsthand.
Camacho, who is Mexican American, grew up in Pomona, California, and attended high school in nearby Chino. His math teacher, Angelo Villavicencio, had been taught by famed educator Jaime Escalante, who inspired the film “Stand and Deliver.” Following Escalante’s example, Villavicencio taught his students about “ganas”: the desire to succeed.
“When I was struggling with math, Mr. V. said, ‘Look at yourself, Joe. You’re from the barrio, the hood, and now you’re in calculus class. How many other people in Pomona are taking calculus right now?’ He said it showed true ganas — and that I needed to pursue postsecondary education.”
Camacho listened, going on to earn his bachelor’s in environmental education and geology from Humboldt State University. Inspired by his mentor, he knew he wanted to become a teacher himself: “I started looking into programs, and I found the UW College of Education.”
His program began with one year of teaching at IslandWood, an outdoor education center on Bainbridge Island, followed by a year of classroom learning and student teaching in Seattle. Camacho completed his master’s in June 2017, and he is now a biology and English language learner teacher at Mount Rainier High School, where he hopes to instill ganas in his own students.
He reached this point, in large part, thanks to the support of scholarships and fellowships, including the Elliott Family Endowed Scholarship in Education. Richard and Joanne Elliott, two former teachers, established the scholarship as a personal response to the shortage of qualified students pursuing teaching careers in the sciences.
“Many teachers graduate with mountains of debt,” say the Elliotts. “We know the importance of a STEM education, and we hope College of Education scholars can create a fantastic learning environment for all.”
For Camacho, their support means that he can inspire students to follow in his footsteps and forge their own futures. “If I can do that for even a couple of students,” he says, “I’ve done my job as a teacher.”
Give to the UW College of Education’s Tomorrow’s Great Teachers Today Scholarship Fund and support future teachers like Joe Camacho who are dedicated to serving in poverty-impacted schools.