Teaching children is "my soul," says Ana Romero
Tacoma Education Association's Ana Romero was an attorney in Mexico before immigrating to Tacoma 12 years ago.
Now she is a second-grade teacher at Larchmont Elementary in the southeast neighborhood of Tacoma, where 74 percent of the students are minorities, 76 percent are low income, 26 percent are in special education and 25 percent are bilingual.
Some of Romero’s students and their families are immigrants – and she’s often asked to translate for parents (the district recently eliminated the school’s translator position).
With the current political debate about immigration, Romero, a permanent US resident, is quick to share her thoughts on the subject.
“People bring different things from other countries – we all bring different gifts,” Romero Says. “The United States was made by immigrants. “Immigrants bring hope, and they’re willing to work. We should see it (immigration) as power instead of weakness.
“We should all work together.”
It’s Romero’s philosophy of unity that recently drew her into being more involved in WEA and TEA. She’s on the TEA Member Lobby Team and is running to be a delegate at the WEA and NEA representative assemblies.
Her school has a new principal this year, but Romero says the atmosphere at Larchmont has been tough in the past, especially with the overemphasis on test scores.
“The pressure is just too much – and it’s not the kids,” Romero says.
Staff turnover has been high. Nine teachers left last year.
“It’s been a revolving door,” says Rebekah Kurtz, who teaches next door to Romero. “But I’m enjoying Ana. It’s fun to work with someone who thinks outside the box for the kids.”
Romero says she’s encouraging other Larchmont staffers to stick around and create a more cohesive community, including building union strength.
“I could see other teachers being bullied and I could see how it hurts the students,” Romero says. “I can’t complain unless I’m doing something. The answer isn’t complicated – we need fairness.”
Romero lives with her husband and 11-year-old son not far from Larchmont, and she knows the economic and social challenges her students face every day.
“Society is changing, our community is suffering and our schools are in the middle,” she says.
But, Romero sees the positive side, too.
“I like the spirit of the children at Larchmont,” she explains. “They are assertive. They are smart. And they are very strong. The kiddos in the south (end) have grit.”
Without prompting, Larchmont office secretary Elizabeth Willcox recently praised Romero’s attitude and commitment to students.
“She loves her job. She loves the kids—not just her kids, all the kids in the building,” Willcox said.
Having worked in another profession in another country, Romero has career experience outside of education – but she believes teaching is much more than just a job.
“There’s nothing more powerful than being in a classroom with 25 little kids,” she says. “They are learning from me, they look up to me.
“Teaching is my soul.”