My name is MaryGrace Longoria, and I am Stand for Children’s Educator Organizer. Before coming to Stand for Children, I had the privilege of teaching 130 bright, hopeful, and inspiring 6th graders in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida. To frame the discussion, it’s important to note the difficulties that I faced at my school: 90% of my students were on free-or-reduced lunch and the school was rated an 'F' by the district.
Despite these challenges, my students had high hopes for the future and worked hard to make significant academic growth, but it was hard.
My students would walk into my class every day wanting to learn and grow, but not prepared to do so. They faced challenges in both their home and school life that made it very difficult to focus on the tough subjects I was teaching. They walked in hungry, stressed, scared, and insecure. School itself was a negative place, with violence interrupting instruction on a daily basis. I worked endless hours every day to ensure my classroom was a safe space to learn and thrive.
Like most teachers in schools like mine, I did not have the same resources as schools in the more affluent areas of Miami. I bought my own classroom supplies, fundraised for my own library, and provided tutoring before and after school—all this on top of planning lessons, grading papers, and communicating with parents. Teacher turnover was high, with an average of 12 new teachers cycling every year. Many would quit or get fired midyear, leaving those classes in turmoil and without instruction. My class sizes were always 30+ and I had no paraprofessional help with my special needs students. I used to joke with colleagues that we deserved bonus pay for having to go above and beyond due to lack of resources and the many needs of our students.
My experience with a high-needs school is what excites me about our work with ProComp – Denver Public Schools (DPS) Professional Compensation System for Teachers. Stand is working with DPS educators interested in strengthening ProComp as the district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association renews the program. We believe that there are some key areas where ProComp can be improved so that the incentives in the system serve to effectively recruit and retain excellent teachers where they are needed most. As it stands now, top-performing schools are competing with hard-to serve schools for teacher talent because incentives are essentially the same for working in either school. We need to ensure that excellent teachers are recruited and retained at our most hard to serve schools and we believe those teachers should receive extra recognition for their work.
Interested in getting involved? Check out more here.