Ambrosia is a third generation Los Angeles, California native. She grew up in east LA and moved to the suburbs in 8th grade. Ambrosia experienced the “great divide” in education when she moved from LA Unified School District to a suburban area that was diverse and included greater emphasis on going college, putting her on the trajectory to pursue higher education.
Ambrosia was a first-generation college student. She went to a community college for three years and then landed at the University of California Davis as a political science and history major. After graduating from University of California Davis, Ambrosia took on a full-time substitute teacher role for LA Unified School District.
Ambrosia’s journey in education has included a number of other experiences such as working as a staff representative for an LA Unified School District board member, teaching video design and photography, and working at a community court school. Taken together, these experiences at different organizational levels in education made Ambrosia realize that teachers were the ones “on the ground and making a difference.”
Ambrosia is currently a math and science teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in Vista Unified School District. She graduated from our Middle Level Credential program.
Ambrosia emphasized that “relationships is where it’s at!” She mentioned that pedagogy is certainly important, but what really matters for effective teaching is: “can you connect with every student in some way?”
After Ambrosia responded to this question, I followed up and asked: “Can you provide an example of how you have connected with a particularly challenging student?”
This led Ambrosia to discussing her experience with one of her current students that “puts off a front of not wanting to engage and not caring about school.” Ambrosia was committed to getting to know this student and learned that he will complete school work because he wants to perform well in school. Nevertheless, Ambrosia was worried because the student did not talk to her. Ambrosia mentioned a particularly insightful moment she had when thinking about how to connect with this student: “why am I trying to change him? I need to focus on meeting him where he is at, so I learned about his humor and personality.” This allowed Ambrosia to engage with this student with sarcasm and jokes that the student connected with. For example, the student would say things like “this is boring” to which Ambrosia would respond “you are right!” In summary, Ambrosia said “I stopped trying to change his personality and met him where he is at and our relationship just blossomed.”
One tip Ambrosia offered current teacher candidates is to “read everything that is assigned to you.” Ambrosia mentioned that it is tempting not to read, but once you get your first teaching position, you won’t have time to read. Along with this recommendation, Ambrosia shared a few books she thought were particularly helpful in preparing her to teach: First Days of School by Henry Wong, Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, and The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students by Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Sypnieski.
Ambrosia discussed her membership with the national board of the National Multicultural Greek Council. She is Vice President of the Executive Board and oversees 10 sororities and fraternities. Ambrosia’s role in this Executive Board continues to challenge and inspire her to help improve the diversity of the teacher workforce by establishing support networks for historically marginalized students who might not have strong support networks necessary to be successful in college.
In addition to this exciting work, Ambrosia was the employee of the month at Roosevelt Middle School in the 2019-2020 school year.
In responding to this question, Ambrosia reflected on her school experiences and discussed how those experiences contributed to her success in teaching. Ambrosia mentioned: “I was bullied a lot in school. Because I went to a different school each year from third grade through 9th grade I didn’t know my classmates, so I was the new kid every year.” She further articulated that having to get to know a new group of peers during these years helped her to develop the skills needed to connect with all students as a teacher.
Ms. Solis was interviewed by Dr. Matranga for this piece in mid-2020.