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The Wealth of a Zip Code Determines Success

By Giselle M. Cancio | Dec. 8, 2015

From a Teacher's Perspective


While most teachers hand out supply lists at the beginning of the year, teachers at Desert Spirit Elementary School provide pencils, paper and other essentials at the start of every week. Included in those teachers is Gina Montelione, who has taught in four different countries over a 14-year time period. Her previous experiences drove her to accept a teaching job in Arizona and she shares some of the challenges of working with low-income students.

"It is hard for me to split myself 24 different ways, because I tend to focus on the ones that absolutely need help. Their home situation is rough. And they don’t have enough money for paper. I give kids paper to take home to do their homework cause I need the homework done."

- Gina Montelione, Teacher


“It hurts me [that] my children have been in three different elementary schools and they’re only in fourth and fifth grade. But the teachers at the school really make Evelyn and Edith feel included and I like that each child is treated the same no matter what their income level is.”

- Arielle Orana, Parent

Educating Takes a Village

Gina Montelione teaches a classroom with 24 different students, each at different proficiency levels. But for a child to fully comprehend the curriculum, it takes the help of the teacher, the school, the district and the parents.

Glendale Elementary School District Superintendent, Joe Quintana, was set to retire this upcoming July, but he thinks the job he was hired to do is unfinished.

“Our next main goal is academic performance because as George Evans said, 'every student can learn, just not on the same day, or in the same way,'” he said.

Sometimes it takes weeks for children to understand the material, but Montelione understands that it’s because of their economically disadvantaged statuses.

Sarah Herrmann, a doctorate student studying cultural psychology at Arizona State University, says it’s hard for kids to succeed when they don’t have basic necessities.

“If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from and you don’t know if you’ll be in the same residence next week, it’s hard to focus on a math problem or reading passage,” she said.

Quintana works closely with the schools in the district to make sure teachers are meeting the needs of the students versus expecting the students to meet a certain standard.

“[It’s about] consistently pulling in the same direction,” Quintana said. “Various schools, various teachers and various individuals doing what is best for the kids.”

To read the full story on how Educating Takes a Village, click here.

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