826 Valencia proudly presents our October Teacher of the Month, Ms. Rachelle Urzua of Downtown High School! As a continuation high school, Downtown High offers project-based learning to support a high-need student population. Ms. Urzua is dedicated to her students both within the classroom, where she addresses “the academic and the personal challenges” her students face and beyond.
Ms. Urzua teaches in the Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative, a teacher initiated non-profit organization that provides students with hands-on environmental education. This program includes Friday field studies that can last until 8:00 p.m. and the occasional three-night camping trip. From Yosemite to Sequoia, students have the unique opportunity to learn environmental concepts while in nature and have fun in the process.
A colleague attests that “whether planting native species, pulling weeds, or putting on waders to check wildlife cameras in a wetland,” Ms. Urzua makes the work exciting with her “unbridled enthusiasm.” And bringing joy to a day of weeding is no easy feat. A current student says, “Ms. U always brings happiness to her students. She makes her students laugh and have a good time.” According to her students, Ms. U is easy to spot because she is almost always smiling.
With her high expectations and consistent support, Ms. Urzua helps her students grow as learners and as young adults. A fellow teacher says, “Even if it means she must come to school on Saturdays for students who miss project deadlines, she wants to see all of her students succeed.” One of Ms. Urzua’s current students reflects that Ms. U “has patience with us and pushes us to be better students.”
Ms. Urzua also provides her students with emotional support, and understands the academic and the personal challenges that they face. A current student remembers, “She hugged me when I was sad. She is a very caring teacher. ”
As one of Ms. U’s current students writes, “She is totally amazing and that’s why she should be teacher of the month.” We at 826 Valencia would have to agree. Thanks for being totally amazing, Ms. Urzua!