By Jeanette Beebe ’14
Outside Daniel Velasco ’13’s classroom window at the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Ind., stands an abandoned building with boarded up windows. But the view doesn’t bother Velasco — his focus is on his students, not his surroundings.
“I absolutely love all of my students, even those that make me want to pull my hair out,” Velasco said with a chuckle. “The greatest lesson I have learned from them is patience.”
This is Velasco’s third year at the charter school. During his first two, he taught full time as a Teach for America fellow. Velasco taught AP United States history, AP world history, economics, government, and world history. He has also tried to build relationships with his students, and to connect with them as a mentor.
“When I teach my kids, stay after school with them, and host tutoring sessions during breaks, I think about the teachers that did that for me,” he said.
After completing his two-year Teach for America commitment, Velasco decided to stay at the 21st Century Charter School as a mentor teacher. In this role, he continues to teach half time, and he also serves as a building leader. Although he is young, he has considerable responsibility at the school. He works closely with two building administrators and 25 teachers.
In the mornings, Velasco teaches economics and government classes to 12th graders. In the afternoons, he observes teachers in their classrooms and gives them feedback in order to help them improve their teaching style and instruction.
“Life as a teacher is both draining and rewarding,” he said. “My life is completely different than when I was at Princeton, because I no longer have just my education and my future to worry about, but also my students’.”
Velasco’s own education was global. He’s a city-loving, second-generation Mexican Midwesterner who was born and raised in Chicago. He spent much of his time at Princeton — well, not at Princeton. Continue reading