There are two things that recent graduate Ale Ortega is very passionate about: her alma mater, TCU, and education equality for all children.
Since graduating from TCU in 2013, Ortega has gone on to pursue her passion of educating children. She works for Teach for America, a program dedicated to making sure that children who grow up in poverty receive an excellent education.
Ortega said she heard of the Teach for America program through her brother and deeply connected with the mission of the program.
“I joined Teach for America because I am living proof that even if a child grows up in a low income community and attends low-performing schools, he or she can raise up through proper education and become successful,” she said.
The children that Ortega and other Teach for America employees teach are from low income, poverty stricken areas. Without help from Teach for America, such children might not receive an education equal to that of children in more affluent zip codes.
Ortega currently teaches third grade students at T.A. Sims Elementary School in Fort Worth. She teaches every subject in both English and Spanish, so all of her students can understand. The regular conversational language also switches everyday.
“One day I’ll speak in general conversation in English and then the next day in Spanish,” Ortega said.
While there’s an obvious difference in the general student demographic at TCU and T.A. Sims Elementary School, Ortega said TCU helped her prepare for her teaching career in many ways.
“I think the most significant way in which TCU helped me was by giving me a true sense of self-efficacy. I truly believe I can make a difference in the world, which is a crucial belief to have in the work that I am doing,” she said.
One TCU professor that especially made an impact on Ortega and inspired her career is Joanne Green, professor and chair of the Political Science Department.
“Ale is probably the hardest working student that I have ever met. Her commitment to excellence and to a deeper comprehension is remarkable and rather unique.” Green said.
While Ortega said she feels like she has all the necessary tools for this career from her own experiences and education, some days are still challenging for the third grade teacher. The most challenging thing about her job, Ortega said, is having so many things to focus on but only being able to take on one thing at a time.
“I want to make sure I give each one of my kids the assistance they need everyday but sometimes it’s hard because there are so many challenges going on all at once,” Ortega said.
“Each of us has more power than we realize — we simply need to develop the skills and confidence to become involved.” Green said.
Ortega said the rewards of her job outweigh the challenges.
“It’s really awesome to see kids that have been struggling experience success,” Ortega said.
Ortega has made it her mission to educate her students and make sure they have all the opportunities they deserve. From her experience attending low performing public schools, and knowing the challenges related to that, Ortega said she wants to make sure students at every level receive a good education.
“I believe that every child deserves an excellent education and someone who believes in them,” she said. “As someone who personally experienced educational inequality for ten years and managed to surpass it, I believe that I have acquired the abilities and have the responsibility to use my experiences to help kids like my former self.”
But the students aren’t the only ones learning from this experience. Ortega said her students teach her things that you cannot learn from a book.
“Honestly, at the risk of sounding cliché, they remind me really to enjoy the little things. I didn’t realize how much kids laughed or how much pleasure they get from a simple thing like recess, they just make you want to live your life and be happy,” Ortega said.
Ortega gives TCU a lot of credit for preparing her for this position.
“I am just so grateful to TCU and all of my professors. They really helped me see the value of an excellent education, and I think everyone should have the opportunity to have such a life-changing experience,” she said. “Thinking about this motivates me every day I teach.”