The BEE Project Participant Profiles Spotlight #2

 Last month, thinkLaw successfully launched The BEE Project.  Our first cohort includes 17 Black and Hispanic teachers across multiple Arizona school districts.  Each participant will be receiving $2,000 to earn their gifted endorsement through an equity-focused PL and clinical experience.  With so many amazing participants, we’re going to be showcasing their unique backgrounds as we continue growing this game-changing program.

Alexxa Martinez

About Alexxa

All seven years of my teaching experiences have been in schools that serve large numbers of diverse and/or economically disadvantaged students. The schools I have chosen in my career align with my personal belief that all students deserve the right to an equitable education, no matter their economic status or cultural background. 


Describe any barriers you face as a Black or Hispanic educator in your work with culturally and linguistically diverse and/or economically disadvantaged students. 


Some personal barriers I face as a Hispanic educator are relating my personal experiences to coworkers that have different upbringings and finding the right balance in the day to day learning to educate my students and embrace their cultures. As a professional, a few barriers I struggle with are low school attendance, and lack of motivation. Working with economically disadvantaged students sometimes results in low attendance because parents in these schools face many barriers, which can lead to more absences. Lastly, unfortunately some students have had experiences that discourage them from valuing their education. I try my best to encourage my students to never stop learning because education is the key to success. 


Why did you join the BEE Project?  

The BEE Project and its mission is inspiring and absolutely essential. Being a Hispanic woman myself, I personally understand the need for students to be exposed to teachers that have similar backgrounds. I love being able to connect with students of color and inspiring them to shoot for the stars and be present in this world. I want black and Hispanic students to know that they deserve every opportunity. 


Angela Striggles

School District: Roosevelt School District 66

Teaching Grade Level: Art Education/Campus Gifted Coordinator 

Years of Teaching Experience: 19 


About Angela 

I have been teaching in Title 1 schools for 19 years.  I have only seen Gifted supported so far in two Districts.  I believe as a woman of color, we need to make sure that these opportunities are in all schools for children.  



Describe any barriers you face as a Hispanic educator in your work with culturally and linguistically diverse and/or economically disadvantaged students. 


Finances are usually the main factor that some Districts have to Support a great program like Gifted.  It all trickles down from the State funding.  Next, I believe the Superintendent as well as Administration being aware and understanding makes a huge difference as well. Having parent support to advocate for their children’s education helps as well. 


Why did you join the BEE Project?  

I currently work in a District with 100 Title 1 students. Even though these students are considered to be in a poor community does not mean their brains are poor! Each semester, we are adding students to our gifted roster! As long as we provide the services, the students’ needs can be met!  

Araceli Cecena

 About Araceli 

I grew up in Mexico and after graduating from high school, I moved to Phoenix, AZ with my family.  


Describe any barriers you face as a Black or Hispanic educator in your work with culturally and linguistically diverse and/or economically disadvantaged students. 

My school environment is inclusive and dedicated to the learning of everyone. 


Why did you join the BEE Project?  

The school where I currently work at does not have a gifted program and I am interested in learning how to better serve our students who do not need academic remediation. 

Jorge Meza

School District: Osborn School District 

Teaching Grade Level: 5th Grade 

Years of Teaching Experience: 8


About Jorge  

I was born in a migrant camp located in a large orchard in Hood River, Oregon. Spanish was my first language, and I began my education without speaking English and was enrolled in a ESL program. Through the efforts of great educators, I was able to learn English quickly, and I was moved to a mainstream classroom. My family was the first to move from the migrant camp into town when I was 12. Our American dream continues for me and my family. My parents recently paid off their first home. 3 of their children have advanced college degrees. My passion for teaching comes from what I went through, and how I can continue to help and support students with a similar background and upbringing. 


Describe any barriers you face as a Black or Hispanic educator in your work with culturally and linguistically diverse and/or economically disadvantaged students. 

I face many unexpected situations on a routine basis, but here are two examples: Our school has a grant to provide shelter for otherwise homeless children and their parents at a nearby Budget Suites motel. These stories of children not being able to complete their homework because they spent the evening and night in a bathroom while their parent(s) were busy in the main room. Secondly, as a fifth-grade educator on the frontline of female students beginning to menstruate. What I have learned is that certain Black-Native American girls miss two weeks of school to complete a ritual to mark this event.  


Why did you join the BEE Project?  

In working with Black and Hispanic students, I find even those who are very gifted academically struggle to achieve due to socioeconomic and family issues. As an example, I have had some success in helping students be admitted to the Loyola Academy at Brophy Prep (free tuition) but others have been intimidated by the prospects of stepping outside their cultural comfort zone. 


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