In her career as a teacher, Elena Delvalle (’22 B.A.Ed.), a student in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program focusing on elementary education, wants her students of color to know they have a place in the classroom – now as students and in the future as educators.
That aim — to bring more teachers from diverse backgrounds into the classroom — is one of the primary goals of DREAM, or Diverse and Resilient Educator Advised through Mentorship. Delvalle is one of the very first residents in the DREAM program, a U.S. Department of Education-funded partnership between the UNC School of Education and Durham Public Schools (DPS) to recruit, educate, and help early career teachers persist in the profession.
Delvalle — who grew up in Lumberton, N.C., and has deep cultural roots in Mexico and Colombia — has known since first grade that she wanted to teach. As an undergraduate at Carolina majoring in Human Development and Family Studies (now Human Development and Family Science), she found both the MAT and DREAM programs and how they align perfectly with her life values and career goals.
“The MAT program is so unique in that I can get my master’s degree in one year and student teach for a whole school year to get real-life experience,” Delvalle said.
As part of the first DREAM cohort and through student teaching at R.N. Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Magnet School, Delvalle has not only been able to pursue her passion to teach, but she is already inspiring the Latinx students in her classroom — showing them a path to teaching — and more — is possible. Six of her 14 students are Latinx.
The MAT and DREAM programs have also provided her with professional development opportunities that are already enabling her success. One example of professional development includes affinity caucuses which DREAM facilitates.
“The affinity caucuses are such a source of inspiration for how to integrate [Social-Emotional Learning] into my teaching,” Delvalle said.
“Being part of the DREAM cohort is very empowering,” she said. “I am super grateful for this opportunity, and it is opening a pathway for students who look like me to be able to pursue their passions.
“Growing up I never had a teacher who looked like me, and so a program like DREAM opens the possibility of having more representation in the classroom with teachers of color. It makes me hopeful that kids will start seeing more teachers who look like them.”
Delvalle’s next steps after completing the MAT program include working in Durham schools. After graduation, each DREAM resident will lead their own classroom in Durham for at least three years, receiving mentorship and professional development opportunities to help them thrive in the profession and to help their students.
“I have fallen in love with the community,” she said. “This is where I want to start my teaching career.”