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This post is a part of an ongoing series, called “Why I Teach Where I Teach,” which asks educators in high-need schools to share what has attracted (and kept) them in the challenging environments they’re in. They share important stories and experiences that should remind us all of the power of strong school leadership, a network of supportive colleagues, and the genuine opportunity to have a say in schoolwide decisions. Listen up! They’re teaching us.

Jozette Martinez, a former businessperson, now teaches business and coordinates the career technical education programming at West Generation Academy in Denver, Colo., where more than half of students are English learners. She writes the 10th entry in this series.

JozetteMartinezBusiness has always been my passion. As a young executive, I became a thriving entrepreneur. In my corporate life, I was a trainer and facilitator. In my own business, I taught adults to own and operate their own small businesses. But I soon discovered that I belonged in the classroom.

I came two years ago to teach at West Generation Academy, which is one of two sixth-through-12th-grade schools created to take the place of West High School — one of Denver’s oldest schools. The opportunity to rebuild a school that focuses on more and improved learning time, while serving a 97 percent free and reduced-price lunch population, offers a unique set of challenges — but it is the best job I’ve ever had. With our extended day, we ensure that students are utilizing their time for optimal success, and we also hold additional classes for credit during the summer months. This is one way to combat “summer melt” and provide a bridge to keep students engaged in learning. Teachers receive daily planning time where collaboration is highly encouraged, and peer observations are used as a tool for mentoring. Being within walking distance of Auraria Campus, we have articulation agreements with several community colleges, and we house teachers who are both high school teachers and college adjuncts. Our career technical education program and concurrent enrollment classes start in the ninth grade, and our goal is to graduate students with not only a high school diploma, but a certificate — up to an associate degree — in STEM or business technology. As a businesswoman first, using my life experience to teach students real career experience, I teach where I teach because I want them to know that college and career success is real for people of their culture, their gender, and their neighborhood.

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Teachers like Jozette, who connect real-world applications to students’ learning, create an environment that is more motivating and meaningful for students.

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