Alejandro Zavala opens the doors to his classroom each day at 6:30 a.m. and shuts them at about 6:00 p.m. It’s a schedule he is happy to keep, because he knows that he arrives and stays to help his students get the tools they need to succeed.
“It’s all about the students, not about me,” said Zavala. “I’ll stay with them for tutoring if they need it. At this age they have the chance to slip away so it’s important to keep them on track for their futures.”
A seventh grade math teacher at Vela Middle School, Zavala entered the field of education by chance. After graduating from high school, he pursued a degree in civil engineering. Reflecting on his love of math and the teachers he had when he was young, he changed direction and pursued teaching. Now teaching for more than 20 years, it’s a decision he has never questioned as every year continues to feel like his first, he said.
Along with his past teachers, his family has played a big role in influencing his goals in the classroom. Through his family, he learned the importance of hard work and the value of respect. They are qualities he hopes to instill in his students as they go on throughout the year.
“Mutual respect goes a long way in the classroom,” said Zavala. “Students may not like me from time to time, but we need to have that mutual respect in order to keep learning going throughout the day.”
Zavala strives to keep students’ minds active by emphasizing the concept of practice makes perfect, he said. The development of a strong work ethic along with refinement of lessons lends itself to accomplishing his ultimate goal for his students, which is to become life long learners.
“My biggest goal for students is that they not only pass the test, but they become successful in whatever they decide,” said Zavala. “ I hope that students find their paths and what they are passionate about.”
When not in his classroom, he focuses on his fitness. Almost seven days a week, you can find participating in some sort of physical activity to keep his heart and mind healthy. He also focuses on his family, which includes spending as much time as possible with his grandchildren.