I flew halfway around the world to teach them.
30th Nov 2023
This blog is part of our “We Are CPLC” series of letters from CPLC staff. We hope you are inspired by these stories of our community by our familia. When you donate to CPLC, you directly support their work.
I started teaching because of my passion for knowledge. And I stayed because of the joy and fulfillment of seeing my students excel.
My name is Hannah Cabral Reyes, and I am a Math Teacher at Toltecalli High School. I am one of the hundreds of teachers who left their homes in the Philippines to teach in the US amid the nation’s historic teacher shortage.
When I first arrived here, I was welcomed by warm and kind people at work. However, it was not easy. It took a lot of courage, hard work, and perseverance to live in a foreign land, let alone to teach, to learn the culture, make friends and carry on.
My students were initially wary. In their short lives, they had already learned not to trust so easily.
In the beginning, I experienced many student behavior challenges and felt a lack of respect, as if it had not been established yet. It felt as if they were testing if I would stay or leave.
But I wasn’t going to leave them. I told them, “I flew halfway around the world to teach you guys. And I am here to stay as long as you need me.”
One day, a student came up to me after my Algebra II class and asked if I had a second to talk to her.
“To tell you honestly,” her eyes welled with tears, “I don’t understand all of this.”
“Which part,” I asked.
“I don’t even know where to start.”
I was shocked, but glad she finally asked for help.
So, we made a game plan: she would stay after class for one-on-one tutoring until she was comfortable and felt like she had built a strong foundation.
Her parents were waiting outside, so I asked her if we could talk to them. We told them about the plan, and they were all in. It made me happy that she has a good support system at home.
At the end of our conversation, her mother hugged me very tightly, relieved that her daughter would have the support she needed. I had earned her trust.
This moment was as special for me as it was for her and her mom. I realized I wanted to serve. To make an impact on our youth.
Something I tell my students all the time is that their efforts day in and day out pave the way to success. And as the weeks turned into months, we started seeing the fruits of that effort.
As word about her success spread among the students, many of them became eager to sign up for my classes. And as the years passed, my students began to graduate, having built the foundation for successful lives.
It took a lot of work, and it was not easy, but once I gained their trust, I earned a family far away from the Philippines.
Though I am not Chicana, and I did not grow up in Tucson, I feel like I was always meant to be here, helping the youth at Toltecalli High School.
I found a home.
For more information about our community schools, please visit https://cplc.org/education/community-schools.php. Donations to CPLC Community Schools of up to $200 for individuals or $400 for couples filing jointly are eligible for the Arizona Public School Tax Credit. Learn more at https://cplc.org/donate/schools.php.
Math Teacher, Toltecalli High School