We’d like to introduce you to Ms. Tirado. A literacy teacher in the San Diego area. Recently we touched base with Ms. T to ask her a little bit about herself, how her love of reading guided her to a career in education, and how that’s being passed on to her students!
Why did you want to become a literacy teacher?
I love to read and when I was younger my parents would not let us what a lot of TV so I would read! I remember going to the library getting to pick up a new book what the highlight of my week. I had a difficult childhood and reading helped me forget about all my problems! Reading just takes you so many places and you learn so much. That is why I wanted to become a Literacy Teacher!
How did you get connected with THE MJ PROJECT?
When I walked into a teacher’s classroom at the Hanford L4L School I saw a wooden bookshelf with an MJ PROJECT logo on it, and it had all these interesting books! I had to ask what the MJ PROJECT was, and I found out it was a foundation that donates books and bookshelves to students! I was so excited and started ordering books for the literacy class that I was and am currently still teaching. Every time we get a new book in for our library it’s like Christmas! I am so grateful!
How has your classroom library impacted your students?
The students are so excited to read and they start talking to other students about the books they have read and then other students want to read those books! It’s so awesome to see so much collaboration, reading, and learning! I feel like books bring people together. Especially shy students who do not have many friends, they start talking about reading books and they become friends!
I cannot thank the MJ Project enough all the books they have donated! I feel like the [classroom library] is more than a book it’s a connection tool, a magic key that can unlock so many doors!
His email signature concludes with the following quote:
Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.
-Rita F. Pierson
When we reached out to Mr. S and asked him a few questions about teaching and books, his answers confirmed why THE MJ PROJECT believes Mr. S, a.k.a. Smitty, is indeed a champion for his students.
Tell us a little about yourself and your students.
I teach in an Intervention Resource Classroom in California. I am married (to a teacher) and have 3 sons. I love teaching, coaching and learning as many new things as possible. The students in my class come to us for support in Social Emotional Learning. My co-teacher and I, help our students learn the skills necessary to be successful in school and in life. We also provide academic support in our students' core curriculum classes.
How did you become interested in teaching?
I became interested in teaching after years of coaching and working as a youth pastor. I realized that if I wanted to fulfill my life mission of impacting young people positively I would have to go where the young people are and not wait for them to come to church or join a team. I took a position as a truancy officer in order to get my foot in the door at a charter school. From there I moved into a position at my current school district working as a Mentor through our districts Safe Student Intervention Program. This program was directed at working with gang impacted and affiliated students. We focused on raising grades and attendance while decreasing incidents of negative behavior. Also, we worked in times of crisis in order to ease tensions between rival gangs across our district’s campuses.
What inspired you to work with special education students?
Initially when I started working in education I did not want to be a special education teacher. I actually was interested in becoming an English or History teacher. I became drawn to Special Education due to my work with at-risk and gang affiliated/impacted students. I realized that many of these students qualified for services and that they needed someone who understood them to advocate for them in the world of education. It can be very difficult to navigate high school if you have never been taught the skills or if no one around you has the skills to do so.
Many of the students I worked with in the Safe Student program were also in our special education program, so I approached our district Director of Special Education about eventually becoming a SPED Teacher. He asked me to apply for a position in a new program being started called an Intervention Resource Classroom. I was hired as one of the two teachers working in the classroom , and I love what I do. We teach students Social Emotional Skills and help students navigate the high school experience. I get to work with the student who, for the most part, have been given up on by their previous schools/teachers. That is why I became a teacher, to be a voice for the students who typically have no voice.
Your students just received a special classroom library with leveled books for readers of varying abilities.
How do you anticipate these books will impact your students?
This MJ PROJECT classroom library is going to help our students in so many ways. It is very difficult to find high interest books at the reading level that some of our students are at. Having these books will help us get students to read more and be able to complete some of their English assignments, as well as instill a love for reading.
What book inspired you to keep reading?
The one book that I remember reading as a young person that inspired me to keep reading is “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers. This book is an amazing story and helped me realize that books aren’t all “boring”.
What are you reading now?
Currently I am reading two different books. I am reading “3D Coach: Capturing the Heart Behind the Jersey” by Jeff Duke and “Field and Stream Outdoor Survival Guide: Survival Skills You Need” by T. Edward Nickens. The first I am reading because I love coaching youth sports and want to be the best coach I can be for my kids. The second I am reading because I enjoy the outdoors and one day would like to do a survival class and test my skills.
Do you have a favorite reading spot?
My favorite reading spot is on my couch in our “2nd living room”. We created this spot specifically for reading, and it is super comfortable.
The MJ PROJECT Blog is written by students, teachers, and MJ Project team members seeking to keep our supportive community in the know with regards to our most recent projects, grants, and programs.