May 5, 2022

A Contagious Passion for Learning: Meet Edgar Ochoa

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this month, Education Forward Arizona is passing the mic to some of our state’s inspiring educators! Meet Edgar Ochoa, a junior high social studies teacher at Ed & Verma Pastor Elementary School in Phoenix.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Edgar Ochoa, Ed & Verma Pastor Elementary School

When I was in 6th grade, I was in a “calligraphy guild” for our school’s “Renaissance Fair.” Our sponsoring teacher had to leave the fair due to an emergency, leaving us students to take over explaining the guild to curious parents and community members. I stepped up to handle the crowds and their questions; the crowds ate it up! I felt so connected to passing knowledge along to others ever since. That was the moment I caught the bug for educating others. I knew what I wanted to do and have not looked back—this is my 16th year teaching junior high social studies at Ed & Verma Pastor Elementary School.

What do you want people to know about teachers or teaching?

It really annoys me when people view our profession as a career that lacks ambition. Just because our idea of ambition does not resemble those of other fields, that does not mean it is non-existent. Ambition for others might include a corporate ladder or a corner office.

To me, there is nothing more ambitious than constantly pushing yourself to build an environment in which all students feel safe, challenged, and motivated to be the best version of themselves.

Was there a teacher who influenced you?

Several teachers influenced me. Huge shoutouts to Mrs. Hassler, Mr. Davitt, Mr. Green, Mr. Ross, Mrs. Talleri, and the late Mr. Alvarez (R.I.P. Mr. A). Every one of those educators share credit for forming the classroom that I have today. Mrs. Talleri’s set the standard for setting standards in my classroom. Mr. Green and Mr. Ross challenged my mind to twist and bend in ways I could never have imagined were possible. Mrs. Hassler and Mr. Davitt gave me the confidence to take on any new challenge without feeling overwhelmed. Mr. Alvarez showed me what caring about others truly means; students will follow you anywhere as soon they can see that in your eyes.

What is the best part of being a teacher or what inspires you?

The best part of being a teacher is the moment you see a child refuse to accept the simple answer as the only answer. Curiosity and passion are contagious (just like apathy). There is nothing cooler than being there when the spark of knowledge-for-the-sake-of-knowledge takes over an individual. No one is ever the same after that. Playing a small role in that awakening keeps me motivated…and summers. Summers are cool too. 🙂

What would you tell someone interested in becoming a teacher?

Be patient and be hungry. Great teachers are the ones who realize that this profession is a perpetual work-in-progress. Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort. Perfection will NEVER be attained; however, the fun is in the attempt. You’ll know this is the job for you when you complete the best lesson of your life and your first thought is, “How can it be better?” The acceptance of fallibility and the pursuit of improvement will give you the energy to absorb the many obstacles that come with this job.

What are some of the best things people can do to show appreciation to teachers?

The best thing anyone can do is to let a teacher know about the impact they have made in your life. Get a hold of them anyway that you can (in-person, phone, social media, letter–it doesn’t matter). Nothing makes a teacher’s day better than knowing they inspired someone to do, think, or feel something. Also, vote for lawmakers that will pay us what we’re worth. That would be great.