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From Student to Eastside Teacher: Nohely Peraza

Nohely, Eastside CO 2016, received her bachelor's from Williams College and started as a 9th grade literature teacher this fall.

In beginning this role and transitioning from student to teacher, I have found myself reflecting deeply about how I got to Eastside in the first place and what attending Eastside meant to me. I always felt a deep gratitude for this place because for most of my life, my ultimate goal was going to college. The fact that this school was made with the mission of supporting students on that journey, made me eager to apply and attend.

Before being admitted for middle school, I had been bussed to school as part of the Tinsley Program, a lottery program that took students from the Ravenswood school district to surrounding school districts. This program was created with the intention of diversifying predominantly white and more affluent schools, and to provide a better quality education to low-income students in the E.P.A and Belle Haven areas. As early as elementary school, my mom would tell me that she didn’t know how we were going to do it, but that I was going to go to college. For years, I passed Eastside on Myrtle Street on the yellow bus ride home, but didn’t know what it was until the mother of a classmate, who at the time worked in the admin building, told me about it and encouraged me to apply.

Long story short, with the generous support of my sponsors, the guidance of my teachers and coaches, and thanks to Chris and Helen, I became the first in my family to earn a high school diploma, and now college diploma. In many ways, I feel like I never left Eastside. I stayed in touch with many of my teachers, and Chris and Helen. They entrusted me to substitute AP English Language as an incoming junior in college. They were eager to support me in my pursuit of a career in education. I have known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in high school, when I found myself looking forward to and never wanting to leave my English classes. At home, I have always played a big role in translating for my parents, filling out forms, writing out applications and letters. In college, I edited friends’ essays and craved discussions about books and larger issues outside of the classroom. I knew I wanted to teach at a place like Eastside--where the teachers really care about the students and are willing to provide the individualized attention and care that helped me succeed and get to and through college. Ideally, I wanted to work with a demographic of students similar to mine--first-generation, low-income students of color.

It is very difficult to describe the immense gratitude I feel. It is very humbling to return to a place that I called home for so long. Teaching at Eastside is something I dreamt of as a student, so I find myself struggling to explain how meaningful it is to me that I am starting another chapter of my life here. I feel incredibly thankful to Chris and Helen, who have believed in me since I applied, and to the rest of my teachers, who believed in me at times I did not believe in myself.

I want my students to know that they should embrace all difficult moments they face--whether academic, personal, environmental, societal. When something feels uncomfortable and scary, face it head on. There is no other way past it. These moments of hardship and struggle are the formative ones, and are the experiences that will ultimately propel you forward. Let yourself recognize and feel through what is going on in the present moment, and think about what you want the future outcome to be. It is never too late to ask for help, and there should not be any shame in recognizing your mistakes and wanting to do better. Keep wanting to do better always. Not for your family, not for your teachers, but for YOU. I can’t stress enough that sometimes, the most important thing you can remember is to always move forward, following whatever it is inside of you that excites you, that you care about, that you deeply desire for yourself. If there is something you really want, you can achieve it. Also, be grateful and kind along your journey always.


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