Jitters aren't just for kids on first day of school

August 29, 2011 8:00:02 PM PDT
If parents and kids get anxious about the first day of school, imagine about what the day can be like for teachers, especially those stepping into the classroom for the first time. At Reach Academy in Oakland, one woman is giving back by answering the call to be a teacher.

This is more than the first day of school for some Oakland kindergarten students, it is the first day of teaching for a Richmond grandmother and she is just as excited as the kids.

"I usually just kind of jump right in and I'm well prepared," said Virginia Velaquez-Cruz, a Reach Academy kindergarten teacher.

If Velaquez-Cruz reveals even a hint of first day jitters, it is quickly overshadowed by a passion to give back to her community and the students responded immediately.

"We're learning our numbers, ABCs and rhyming," said Zoey Wilson, a kindergarten student.

The teacher may be new to the classroom, but her experiences make her an ideal candidate to serve the often challenging environment of East Oakland.

"She raised four kids, she has grandchildren, she comes from corporate, she brings a lot to Oakland and she's Oakland-born," said Patricia Sheehan, the Reach Academy principal.

Velaquez-Cruz received extensive teacher training before joining Reach Academy, but her instincts proved just as valuable on Monday. In the first few hours of her new career, the bilingual teacher spoke Spanish to her students, and offered as many hugs as she did gestures of discipline.

"Everything is a classroom management procedure, so that's really important and it's done in a very fun, loving caring way," said Velaquez-Cruz.

Even though Velaquez-Cruz is a intern teacher right now, she will be credentialed this semester and is working on getting her masters in education.

Valequez Cruz says she's essentially been a teacher without the title all of her life, without the title. Now at Reach Academy she's in a position to inspire a new generation.

"My hope ultimately for them is to be successful both academically and personally to learn how to live in the greater community as well as their home community," said Velaquez-Cruz.

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