Only a few years into her profession, Jomayra Torres has already taught a range of grades, including a jump from first to fifth. Beginning this year, she will begin a new role as a sixth grade English and language arts teacher and a reading specialist for students in third to fifth grades.
Those are quite a few moves for anyone’s career, but Torres—who was recognized as the 2014 New Jersey Charter Schools Association Teacher of the Year—has done it all at BelovED Community Charter School in Jersey City. She is extremely proud of her own professional growth and, most importantly, the personal and academic growth she sees in her students each day.
She’s especially excited about her latest pivot because she specialized in Elementary Reading and Literacy while earning her MS in Education at Walden University. “Working with students who are struggling has always been a passion of mine. I had two brothers who really needed a lot of help growing up. At that time, I was their support system. I’ve always been passionate about serving students who most need our help and attention.”
Torres realizes that learning doesn’t stop when the students go home. That’s why she started a tutoring service for underprivileged students. She also plans to add resources for parents to learn how to effectively help their children so they can avoid tutoring or intervention when possible. “Giving back to my community is something that’s very important to me” she says. Torres sees her role as a volunteer as a necessary extension of her work as a teacher.
As the new school year begins, her biggest piece of advice for educators is to find ways to connect with individual students. “Students have interests, goals, and dreams,” she says. “They look to you to help them grow and develop. Find out what makes each student tick and what their motivations are so you can help them be successful.”
This approach, she says, “Is about more than education. It’s teaching the whole child.”
She also feels strongly that the other half of the equation for successful teaching is parents. “Keep an open line of communication with parents. Contact them for the good and the bad,” she explains. “Have an open door policy—this is a major step that will help you gain their support.”
Where can you expect to see Torres in 20 years? Likely in a college classroom. She ultimately plans to pursue her doctorate to become a professor to educate fellow educators. — Claire Blome