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As Teacher on Special Assignment, Teresa Sanchez will help with professional development, planning

Teresa Sanchez has been invested in equity work since her first year of teaching in 1998. During that year, Sanchez worked at Oregon City High School with a class of Latinx students who were not performing well academically.

Sanchez said she was able to turn that around during her time as their teacher. Using culturally responsive teaching, a pedagogy that includes students' cultural experiences in all aspects of teaching, Sanchez affirmed that they belonged in their school and community. COURTESY PHOTO: TERESA SANCHEZ - TERESA SANCHEZ

"At the time I didn't even know that's what I was doing … I was able to create relational trust with the students," Sanchez said. "That's when I realized 'Oh, I have the ability and the power to change the kids' lives' … because to me, education is the way to change lives."

After 17 years of working as a Spanish teacher at Lake Oswego High School, Sanchez is transitioning to a new role in the district as Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) where, instead of teaching in a classroom, she'll be compiling professional development and supplemental curriculum on the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"What we want to create is a culture where this is who we are and this is embodied in everything we do," Sanchez said.

In her first week on the job as district TOSA, she's already hard at work.

"Right now I'm working on a professional development calendar around the topics of anti-racism and social justice," she said.

She said each school's administration will discuss different themes during monthly staff meetings.

According to Sanchez, Superintendent Lora de la Cruz had a vision for equity work in the district where she could work side by side with someone "on the ground," so to speak.

"She wants a teacher to be working with her because she knows we're closer to the students," Sanchez said.

In her role, she'll be a resource to teachers, administrators and the community.

The district announced the decision to change its approach to diversity, equity and inclusion in June, in an effort to unify and streamline the many existing equity groups in the district.

"They're all doing work that is really important to them, but it's work that is different in every school," de la Cruz said in June. "I heard a desire this year for them to be more aligned and overlapping, so that their work intersects, which makes it even more powerful."

As far as what her day-to-day responsibilities look like, Sanchez said it's too soon to tell.

"I'm going to be visiting schools, working with the equity teams in each building, working with student groups," she said. "I will be a link with all the equity teams within the district."

Sanchez said her interest in equity work is influenced by being a woman of color in the U.S.

"I have felt like I don't belong. I have even internalized negative narratives about myself and it's really painful, and I really don't want any child to feel that pain," she said.

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