Back to School season is here! As students throughout the Silver State embark on another school year, there are hardworking folks in their schools and in our communities championing their success.

Among them is Melissa Ramirez, an instructional coach at Nevada Rise Academy, a college preparatory public charter school. After receiving her Master’s in education, she was placed into the school as its very first 1st grade teacher.

This school year marks her second full year as an instructional coach, where she supports teachers at every level of their respective professional journeys, be it supporting teachers to meet the needs of kids in their classroom to strategizing next steps for their professional development.

Beyond her daily duties at Nevada Rise Academy, Melissa is among the first group of Opportunity 180 Leadership Development Ambassadors. In this role, she’s helping to strengthen relationships among educators in the community and raise awareness with educators and other aspiring education leaders on leadership development opportunities.

As a Leadership Development Ambassador, she recently attended the Standards Institute in Washington, DC, a five-day professional learning experience focused on meaningful implementation of equitable, positive, and affirming educational experiences with students and the school community, as well as how to address implicit and explicit bias in the classroom.

Entering the school year, Melissa is ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead. She recently sat down with our team for a Q&A to share her thoughts:

What has you excited for this school year and what opportunities do you see ahead?

Melissa: This is going to be our school’s first year at full capacity. We welcomed a 5th grade class for the first-time last year and we’re really hitting the ground running, knowing what every grade level needs, where we were and where we want to go in terms of supporting students and families.

At our school, we believe all students can meet and defy expectations… we set a high bar. We know it’s a team effort and we set high expectations for our families, too. For opportunities this year, we’ve been thinking about how to get our students to experience their community that much more. So, we’re going to have more field trips – be it Springs Preserve, touring college campuses or bringing in guest speakers.

What takeaways from the Standards Institute are you bringing with you as the school year begins?

Melissa: One of the biggest takeaways is that we’re not doing anything for our students’ college goals if we backtrack on expectations. Also, through a social justice lens, it was powerful to reflect on my own biases and experiences and how to be cognizant of these lessons in the classroom.

How can families stay involved with their student’s education this year and how would you encourage community members to engage and support students?

Melissa: A lot of families shy away from curriculum in a way that’s, “oh, that’s different from how I learned it.” This can boil down to language, too, with our Spanish-speaking families. Although a first language at home may not be English, everyone can be thinking how to support their children at home with vital skills, be it skills that can transfer into numbers, writing on paper and the countless skills that defy language.

For our community members, appreciating and supporting teachers comes in various forms, whether it’s sending out letters to legislators and advocating for positive change. So many teachers are looking to grow as professionals, so supporting their desire to learn and grow always helps, too.

The beginning of the school year signals not only new things to learn and new ways to grow; it stands for setting and supporting high expectations for students, families, and the educator community for the coming year and for the future. By cultivating our educators’ great ideas and leadership capabilities, we create pathways for great schools to thrive, and for kids to succeed – working towards our North Star of every kid graduating from high school college and career-ready, prepared to live the life they dream.