Juan Morales wants to build a movement. He wants to change attitudes in the neighborhood so working hard and doing well in school is just as important as rapping or playing basketball.
One parent calls Mr. Morales awesome. “You have to address the kids in middle school as friends because they think they know everything, and he’s so good at that.”
“A lot of the kids grow up faster than they need to in this neighborhood,” he said. “I want them to see a teacher who looks like them. I want them to know that what’s in their minds and their hearts matters.” He says Children’s Aid’s holistic approach to the child is very, very important.
Mr. Morales is from a long line of teachers. He grew up in the same neighborhood as the scholars he now teaches. In college, he was unfocused and a friend told him that if he didn’t get serious, he’d end up just like their peers in the criminal justice system. He became a teacher.
He now teaches English Language Arts to middle school students at Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School. Mr. Morales especially likes that he not only gives students the building blocks of education – reading and writing – but that he can include history, science, almost anything.
He takes pride in the fact that many of his students had never read a whole book before his class and now some of them carry around a book they’re reading on their own.
It is especially important to him that his teaching includes examination of social issues. Currently, he has his class engaging in a debate about whether, when, and how juveniles should be tried as adults.
Mr. Morales, who taught English in Thailand after earning a master’s degree in childhood education is now finishing a second master’s degree. He wants to go into administration to build his movement school-wide.
“More than anything, I want these kids to succeed.”