Thanks to you, AJ Dorsa Elementary fifth grade teachers

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, City Year sites all across the country are recognizing the hard work and dedication that America’s teachers put forth each and every day. City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley will be featuring a blog post each day this week in which we will thank a teacher or administrator at one of our service partner schools for inspiring and supporting us as we serve.

Today, corps members Anya Bergman and Brad Nitta will recognize Ms. White, Ms. Bajwa and Mr. Cinco, all fifth grade teachers at AJ Dorsa Elementary School.

Like most of the teachers in San Jose’s Alum Rock School District, the fifth grade teachers at A.J. Dorsa Elementary School have their work cut out for them. Some of their students still have difficulty deciphering the difference between “b” and “d” and for others, the question “What is nine times three?” is often met with a guess. Despite these challenges, Ms. White, Ms. Bajwa and Mr. Cinco work tirelessly every day to get all of their students up to speed in order to be prepared for middle school.

These three fifth grade teachers have proven to be extremely supportive of our work both in their classrooms and during the after school program. They are invaluable resources for academic materials and advice on how to work with students. For that, they deserve our greatest thanks.

Corps Members Brad Nitta and Anya Bergman with Dorsa fifth grade teachers Ms. Bajwa, Ms. White and Mr. Cinco.

Ms. White’s incredible patience, good nature and humor belie the fact that she wakes up incredibly early each day to drive to school from Oakland. She has spent weekends learning new techniques for maximizing the potential of her Promethean interactive whiteboard and using it to keep her students constantly engaged. She will break into songs that help ingrain mathematical procedures into the students’ heads. She even finds time to work one-on-one with a student who recently arrived in her classroom and speaks little English. Academic success is a priority, but Ms. White also works to make sure her students’ emotional needs are being met. She will call or stay after school to meet with parents and has communicated concerns with us to make sure students in the after school program stay safe and continue to feel supported.

From early on, Ms. Bajwa has worked to make City Year feel like a part of her classroom. When we walk in to tutor, she often publicly recognizes us as authority figures in order to keep students accountable for their actions and on their best behavior. She is more than wiling to provide us with whatever we need to make our homework center run more smoothly and effectively, and recently came into our classroom to model a new technique we will use to help students practice math skills. In the afternoons when her students are in music or P.E., Ms. Bajwa invites us into her classroom to “take a load off,” and is happy to chat and offer tips about working with specific students. She encourages us to try our best and reach out to students, but reminds us that we cannot change their backgrounds, and difficult situations will arise that are beyond our control.

Every week, students in our fifth grade after school class beg us to allow them to help Mr. Cinco or go to his classroom for extra support. This is a testament to Mr. Cinco’s influence on his students and his dedication to reaching 100% mastery of the concepts he is teaching them. In his classroom, he has created an environment in which students can learn from each other and are encouraged to participate in lessons. He treats students as if they were adults and holds them to the same standards. Perhaps most striking is his apparent split personality. Mr. Cinco is both loved and feared by students. He is a shining example of how to walk the line between disciplinarian and “cool guy.” For this, we respect and admire him, as do all of his students.

These teachers deserve recognition and thanks for being so accommodating and helpful to City Year and for their unfailing commitment to their students and the students’ families. These teachers prove everyday that real tough love is what it takes for each and every one of their students to exceed expectations.

Anya Bergman & Brad Nitta, Corps Members CYSJ


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