For Teacher Appreciation Week, we wanted to highlight one of our teachers, Rene Silva, a 6th grade math teacher at ACE Empower Academy.
Every day our teachers come to work and relentlessly pursue our mission with optimism and confidence. Every student at ACE has extraordinary potential, and every day our teachers see that potential, even when students and families may not. It is because of their daily consistency that our students are going to college, and that they will thrive in college.
In this post, Mr. Rene Silva shares his reasons for joining the ACE Family and his passion for the ACE mission.
1) Why did you become an ACE teacher?
I want to provide support to students that had the same home life as I had growing up. I am a child of immigrants from Mexico. Similar to our ACE students, my parents were only able to read in Spanish. I struggled in my early years and picked it up in 6th grade because a teacher showed a lot of belief in me.
Since I was a first generation low-income student myself, I know it is very important to have a mentor that looks like you and knows the struggles you’re going through so they can relate to you. For our ACE students, having people that look like them is important – they need to hear that college is important from others in the community who made it. I try to be a good role model and example to our students – I struggled but I persevered and made it.
If it wasn’t for my mentors, I wouldn’t be half the person I am because I’ve learned so much from them. Because of this, I have been a mentor for high school students for many years. I always enjoy helping others.
I truly believe that if our ACE students work hard, respect themselves, have pride in their work and show ganas (ambition) in the classroom, they will go far. When I see a struggling student get it – it brings me a lot of hope and happiness. They are building their self-confidence inside and outside the classroom.
2) What makes ACE different from other schools?
We don’t take the cream of the crop. We take students exactly where they are at. We accept the task of growing them a year a half, no matter what grade level they start in.
At ACE, teachers are counselors and provide the students self-confidence. We help students grow and build the skills to go into the real world.
Since the majority of our students are first generation, their parents don’t know what tools they need to get to college. We, as teachers, fill in the gaps that parents don’t know merely because of their lack of experience in America.
3) What are your future plans in education?
I want to make a systematic change in education. In 3 years, I want to be a principal in East Side San Jose.
In addition, I would also like to run a nonprofit that showcases the lives of Latino immigrants and the hard work they’ve put in. By sharing this history, students can become more motivated by how hard their parents worked.
The nonprofit would also match every low-income high school student with a mentor in their prospective field of interest. I hope to work with the Mayor of San Jose to support the nonprofit and serve all first-generation college students in the area.
3) Tell us a story about a student who you saw transform and/or overcome challenges.
I remember a student in 6th grade, who is now in 8th grade. His first semester, he would just sit there and put his head down. I knew this student was a bright kid though. When I implemented differentiation, the student started having behavior problems – he would walk around the classroom, walk out of the classroom and distract the students. I held many conferences with his mother, so his mother would come after school and he would do his work then. We did this for 1 month straight.
Then I showed him an algebra problem. I only showed him once and he understood. In 7th grade, he was part of the Empower student government and now, in 8th grade, he is part of the SPARK program. In that program, he goes every week to Apple’s offices and works with a mentor. It is an opportunity for him to learn about STEM, which he is interested in.
I knew he had the potential and now he is realizing his potential.
4) What is one word that you would use to describe ACE?
As a teacher, I always have an optimistic mindset. These students are going to grow and having a positive mindset in your skills as a teacher helps in that process. It is also important to have a growth mindset in our own skills, by instilling the advice that our coaches provide in the classroom.