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Santos shines in teaching position

TUES. | 11-22-22 | FEATURES

     You are making your way down the English hall and a woman standing in the doorway of room 313 greets you, even though you have never met her before. That unknown person would be English teacher Alessandra Nysether-Santos. 

     Nysether-Santos is known for greeting every student she can catch whether she knows them or not, as this is something she has done since her internship. Nysether-Santos knows it can seem extra at times, however there is a very specific reason she does this.


Photo by Hunter Pope

      “There are so many days that you might go through your life where not a single person looks at you,...talks to you or even notices that you are a real, living human,” Nysether-Santos said. “The small act of just being like ‘Hey, how are you?’ gives people a sense of belonging.”

     Although Nysether-Santos has a great passion for teaching, she did not always want to be a teacher.

     “It was actually something that people always told me like ‘Oh my goodness you should be a teacher’ and I was very against it growing up,” Nysether-Santos said. “Especially back then as a student in public education systems, I had some real beef with education, like the way it can be very exclusionary and not always accessible for the students it's supposed to serve.”

     College is where Nysether-Santos realized teaching was her path.

     “It hit me like a freight train when I was in college, I was like ‘Oh this is why I need to be a teacher,” Nysether-Santos said. “These issues that I have with the educational systems and my lived experience as somebody dealing with the adversity in those systems allowed me to see it from a perspective of ‘I can fix this’.”

     That is not to say that Nysether-Santos has not experienced her fair share of challenges.

     “There are so many challenges to being a teacher, but right now a big challenge is balancing everything with the limitations of time and energy,” Nysether-Santos said. “Meeting my students’ needs, but also taking care of myself is important so we don’t burn eachother out.”

     Though there are challenges, there is nothing easier for Nysether-Santos than showing up for the students.

     “The easiest part is…being a trusted adult; I am somebody they can count on, rely on and trust, but I’m going to hold them to really high expectations and standards because I see the greatness in them,” Nysether-Santos said. “When someone is coming from a difficult situation, there may not be much you can do, but you can be there and if nothing else, one more kind person that they might not meet outside of this space.”

      Nysether-Santos takes a trauma informed approach when teaching because she believes that we navigate a lot of trauma in our lifetime.

     “I think that when we don’t approach education with an informed perspective of how trauma doesn’t just affect us as a population, but physiologically, mentally and developmentally,” Nysether-Santos. “We are not only doing our students a disservice, we are doing ourselves a disservice.”

      Nysether-Santos also takes this approach because she thinks it is vital to a student’s learning.

     “If I don’t respect the whole person, if I expect people to leave parts of themselves at the door, …that completely undermines the relationship that needs to take place for meaningful learning to happen,” Nysether-Santos said.

     In late October, all of Nysether-Santos’ strategies and passion paid off when she was announced JHR Teacher of the Year.

     “I was surprised..because I had just won Beginning Teacher of the Year two years before…which is for teachers who are within their first three years of teaching,” Nysether-Santos said. “So this being my fourth year, it is the first one not being a beginning teacher so it is like ‘Not only are you not a beginning teacher, you’re teacher of the year’.”

     Nysether-Santos assumes that a variety of characteristics are responsible for her win.

     “I have a lot of passion for teaching, and not just in the content area of teaching, although I love English language arts, I love literature and writing, specifically student centered writing,” Nysether-Santos. “If I had to guess why I won, I think it must be a combination of seeing the passion of working at the student level, seeing the passion of being a leader and I don’t know,…just good vibes.”

     Nysether-Santos strives to accomplish many things by being a teacher such as growth and building up her students.

      “I want to achieve empowering my students to be transformative thinkers and leaders because I have no doubt that my students are change-makers,” Nysether-Santos said.

      Nysether-Santos is not certain what her future will look like, but she is currently in the Teacher Leadership Institute to hopefully gain some direction.

     “I love the classroom and I would be really bummed to not be working with students on a daily basis,” Nysether-Santos said. “I want to keep growing,...but I’m not sure what that will look like in the classroom.”

      Nysether-Santos is extremely gracious to have won JHR Teacher of the Year and thanks the entire Rose community.

     Breathe in, breathe out. Nysether-Santos has this saying posted outside her classroom. She lives by this saying each day and believes it is crucial to the classroom and daily life.

     “Breathing in, breathing out, and coming back to myself,” Nysether-Santos said. “I want to come from a place of being responsive and reflective, not reactive and frustrated.”

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