Every school teacher deserves an A+ after navigating the last few years. One of them is Ava’s (Alex and Kerry’s daughter) kindergarten teacher, Maria Lopez. Educator is just one of the many roles Maria’s found herself playing. “I describe myself not just as a teacher, but as a leader, changemaker, waymaker, counselor, and with this age group I feel like a mom,” she says.
In her 22-year teaching career, she says nothing has challenged her like teaching 32 students last year remotely from her living room. A single mom with a four-year-old daughter, Lopez was burning the candle at both ends putting in four to five hours of prep work a night to prepare 30-plus slides a day, develop science experiments, plan movie nights, and manage not just 32 students, but also their parents.
Besides the stresses of COVID, school shootings are an unfortunate and tragic reality that weighs heavy on her. “I found myself in bed thinking about how I would protect my babies,” she says. “These are things an educator shouldn’t have to think about.” Yet Maria can’t imagine a more fulfilling job. “I’m not sure there is any other profession where you are loved to this capacity,” she says. “I feel loved every single day. I feel like a celebrity walking into my own job.” One of her biggest joys is knowing she’s helped a child learn how to read. “When you teach kindergarten, you’re watching kids grow as learners,” she says. “To know you were a part of a child’s life and success is why I do this.”