Relatable Role Models

shutterstock_151161419It matters for students to see relatable examples of positive role models who look like them or have a similar background to theirs. Though the educational system as a whole is getting better at presenting a diverse array of role models for students, we know we still have more work to do.

Sometimes, as teachers, we present role models who–while undeniably inspiring–aren’t necessarily relatable for students. Diverse politicians, actors, writers, activists–these people all should have a place in our canon of role models. But we can also look closer to home.

I used to, when teaching a unit on Greek mythology, ask students to write the heroic journey of one of their personal heroes. I told them I didn’t want it to be someone famous or well-known. Parents, grandparents, friends, former teachers–even a dog (and yes, the student justified it well!). Those stories were always some of the most powerful writings my students did all year.

So today, here’s a relatable role model for you to share with your students. Brian Latimer for NBC News tells the story of Miguel Padilla, one of only 10 people in the entire world to earn a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam. Padilla’s mother, an immigrant from Mexico, said her son had been successful in school from a young age. And his teachers in high school continued to be impressed with his intelligence.

“Angélica Garcia, Padilla’s computer science and mathematics teacher, said she assigns him work that he can complete faster than her — even though she has a masters degree in digital mathematics and worked as a programmer in Silicon Valley for 20 years.

‘He is not only a very bright student, very talented, hard-working and dedicated, he has a big heart that distinguishes him from others,” Garcia said. “He wants to help everyone like his classmates. He is always willing to help others with a big smile on his face, and he is humble with his abilities.’”

Read the full story here. Congrats, Miguel!

A former teacher from a high ELL-incidence district in Massachusetts, Alea is now finishing her doctorate in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also works at Mawi Learning as the School Partnership Specialist. When she isn't writing her dissertation, Alea can most often be found watching her beloved Red Sox, reading an unabashedly trashy romance novel, or eating her husband's homemade bread.

Category: Education, Lessons