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Ideas and Solutions

10 Latinx Leaders Changing Tulsa’s Educational Landscape

This Latinx Heritage Month, we celebrate Teach For America Latinx leaders making a profound impact in the lives of Tulsa’s children.

October 14, 2019

The TFA Editorial Team

This Latinx Heritage Month, we honor and celebrate the contributions made by Teach For America Latinx leaders across Tulsa. They are teachers, assistant principals, program managers, and executive directors. Their bold journeys demonstrate collective impact towards offering an excellent and equitable education to Tulsa’s most vulnerable students.

Elsie Urueta Pollock

Elsie Urueta Pollock (St. Louis '08) Founder and Executive Director -  Tulsa Honor Academy

Elsie Urueta Pollock began her career in education in 2008 when she joined Teach For America and taught sixth graders with special needs in St. Louis. After five years of teaching in the classroom, Elsie knew she wanted to expand educational opportunity and access for students in her hometown of Tulsa. 

In 2013, Elsie applied and was accepted into the highly selective and prestigious Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, where she planned and designed a school. In 2015, Tulsa Honor Academy opened its doors to nearly 100 fifth graders in East Tulsa. Since 2015, Tulsa Honor Academy has expanded to serve more than 500 students, from fifth through ninth grade, across two campuses. 

Under Elsie’s leadership, Tulsa Honor Academy is the highest achieving and highest growth charter school in Tulsa. In 2018, it was named Oklahoma’s Charter School of the Year. Because of her visionary leadership, the League of Women Voters of Tulsa recognized Elsie as one of the city's “Women Who could be President” in 2017. In addition to leading Tulsa Honor Academy, Elsie serves as a commissioner on the Hispanic Affairs Commission with the city of Tulsa. 

“I founded Tulsa Honor Academy in East Tulsa because I wanted to give back to a community that gave so much to me. I have the privilege of working with some of the hardest working, kind, and courageous scholars. They WILL transform the world some day. I can look at my scholars squarely in the eyes and tell them that they CAN go to college, they CAN achieve at high levels, they CAN reach their dreams. I did it. So can they.”

Elsie Urueta Pollock

Executive Director, Tulsa Honor Academy

Marcia Bruno-Todd

Marcia Bruno-Todd (Greater Tulsa ‘13) Director, Programs and Community Impact - Leadership Tulsa

At a young age, Marcia Bruno-Todd learned that education and awareness are not enough to access the elusive American Dream. She learned that the language of access was not just about “learning English,” but included the hidden language of political structures, status quo, and unconscious bias. This is why she has dedicated her life to making space for more seats at more tables to have more voices that drive meaningful change in our community. 

Today, Marcia serves as the director of programs and community impact at Leadership Tulsa, a leadership development organization supporting a diverse cadre of leaders to effect positive change in Tulsa. Because of Marcia’s commitment to developing the next generation of leaders, she was recognized with the Amiga award by the Latin American Chamber of Tulsa in September 2019. 

Marcia holds an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University and a master's degree in public administration from Arkansas State University. She is a proud Boricua from Caguas, Puerto Rico, raised throughout the states and now living in Tulsa.

“I constantly seek ways to convene people of different walks of life to share their narratives about the community and explore how we can address the opportunities and challenges impacting our community. I am empowered by mi Latinidad; this serves as a constant reminder that there are several sides to a story, and they all must be heard so that we can grow.”

Marcia Bruno-Todd

Director of Programs and Community Impact, Leadership Tulsa

Marco Herrera

Marco Herrera (Greater Tulsa ‘15) Assistant Principal - Ellen Ochoa Elementary

Born and raised in the border region of El Paso, Texas, Marco Herrera attended the University of Texas at El Paso before joining Teach for America in 2015. As a Teach For America corps member, Marco taught pre-K and kindergarten in Tulsa. 

In 2017, he became an assistant principal with Union Public Schools and currently serves as an assistant principal at Ellen Ochoa Elementary, a community school in East Tulsa with more than 1,000 students, of which over 65 percent identify as Latinx. “Every day, I get to work in a vibrant, welcoming, community that fills me with joy and gratitude” Marco says. 

Marco earned his master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Educational Administration and is currently pursuing his doctorate of education at OU in Education Policy.

“I see myself in the students at my school every day. This means that what I do is informed by my deep connection to them. Every day I am lucky to serve as a school leader, I work to build new and lasting connections with them in the hope that they can see themselves in me and know everything I do, I do for them.”

Marco Herrera

Assistant Principal, Ellen Ochoa Elementary

Greater Tulsa '15

Maria del Carmen Oros Zamudio

Maria del Carmen Oros Zamudio (Greater Tulsa ‘17) Impact Manager - City Year Tulsa

As a summer intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), Maria del Carmen Oros Zamudio learned about “Latinidad,” which would forever change her personal leadership trajectory. Inspired by Congressman Raul Grijalva, who advocates fiercely for educational equity and giving voice to those that are often silenced, Carmen decided to pursue a career in education.

After completing a year of service with City Year Tulsa, a national education nonprofit seeking to end the high school dropout crisis through in-school interventions, Carmen joined Teach For America. As a third grade teacher, she built an environment where students could be proud of their identity and build a deep belief in their own potential by designing culturally responsive lessons, engaging parents and families, and sharing her own Mexican American identity with her students. 

Today, Carmen is an impact manager with City Year Tulsa, where she manages seven AmeriCorps members who support students in attendance, behavior, and coursework. As a master’s degree candidate in public administration at the University of Oklahoma, Carmen continues to further her learning to advocate for equitable education practices and policies for all students.

“My Latinidad motivates me to be bold and be my authentic self at all times. As a Latinx leader, it is my duty to make my indigenous ancestors proud and represent my community by bringing a chair to the table when one is not given.”

Maria del Carmen Oros Zamudio

Impact Manager, City Year

Greater Tulsa '17

Christian Barrera

Christian Barrera (Greater Tulsa ‘17) Dean, Culture and Climate - Monroe Demonstration Academy

Christian Barrera is a proud first-generation college graduate, who understands the power and privilege behind a great education. Christian credits his parents for teaching him the value of education through their hard work, grit, and perseverance. As immigrants to the United States, Christian’s parents navigated the complex educational system ensuring he and his siblings had access to an excellent education. 

As the dean of culture and climate at Monroe Demonstration Academy, Christian aspires to be a role model for Monroe scholars by setting high expectations, building strong relationships, and showing them every day that it is possible for someone who looks like them to lead and shape this world. His favorite part of his job is working with families and empowering them with resources and opportunities available.

Christian recently graduated from the University of Tulsa with a master’s degree in business administration.

“My Latinx identity enhances my ability to communicate with others. I cultivate strong relationships with staff, scholars, and families across lines of difference to build a cohesive culture in our school community.”

Christian Barrera

Dean, Monroe Demonstration Academy

Greater Tulsa '17

Rebecca Enriquez Ortiz

Rebecca Enriquez Ortiz (Greater Tulsa ‘16 ) 8th Grade Teacher - Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences

From receiving the Tomas Rivera Award for her work on the Latinx Youth Leadership Institute to coaching the next generation of Tulsa Changemakers, Rebecca Enriquez Ortiz is frequently recognized for her deep belief in the potential of all students. 

As a first-generation Oklahoma State University (OSU) graduate, Rebecca was involved in the Retention Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE) program and was inspired by her mentor Marcia Bruno-Todd’s drive to elevate voices in OSU’s Latinx community. Rebecca joined Teach For America in Greater Tulsa in 2016, where she reconnected with her mentor, Marcia, by joining the Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI) for its second class composed of Tulsa’s upcoming Latinx leaders. Through her experience at HLI, Rebecca co-founded the Latinx Youth Leadership Initiative, a 10-week program where high school students develop their leadership potential, college-readiness, and workforce development skills.

Today, she proudly works at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences as an eight grade pre-algebra teacher. Rebecca hopes to build a deep belief in her Latinx students to truly see themselves agents of change.

“Every day that I enter my classroom, I am unapologetically myself and expect the same from my students. I am a master code-switcher but I always keep it 100% Ortiz when I'm in front of my students (and beyond) with the hope that they recognize that they are dope just as they are. I remind them that they are not bound by the expectations that our systems have placed upon them and that they carry the power to create a more loving world for themselves and others.”

Rebecca Enriquez Ortiz

Teacher, Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences

Greater Tulsa '16

Misael “Misa” de la Rosa

Misael “Misa” de la Rosa (Greater Tulsa ‘19) 9th Grade Teacher - East Central High School

Originally from the border city of El Paso, Texas, Misael “Misa” de la Rosa joined Teach For America Greater Tulsa after graduating from Washington University - St. Louis. As an undergraduate, Misa was named a Mellon Mays Fellow—this selective fellowship seeks to increase diversity in institutions of higher learning. Misa’s project centered on Chicano contestation of American literature through code-switching. 

As a Latinx educator, Misa is proud to bring his Chicano identity to his classrooms. He deliberately speaks in both English and Spanish to highlight the importance of honoring and respecting one’s bilingual reality. Misa’s hope is for his students to be unapologetically themselves by letting their identities shine in his classroom. Every day, Misa models this by sharing his language, culture, identity, and his love for his own complex and intersectional identity. 

Today, Misa is a ninth grade math teacher at East Central High School in Tulsa, where he serves primarily Latinx students.

“To be a Latinx educator is to know that the very existence of my body in a position of educational power is already a step towards dismantling systems that seek to marginalize people of color. Being a Latinx educator is to understand that I have a responsibility to not only teach content, but to go above and beyond and teach my students that their identities should and will be celebrated in my classroom. I am unapologetically Latinx, Chicano, and in my classroom, my students can and will be allowed to be their full selves in the language(s) that they choose.”

Misa de la Rosa

Teacher, East Central High School

Greater Tulsa '19

Sally Ramirez

Sally Ramirez (Greater Tulsa ‘13) Art Instructor - The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges

A Los Angeles native, Sally Ramirez is the first in her family to graduate high school and college. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Sally joined the corps in order to partner with children and families and help highlight their assets in and outside of the classroom.

During her corps years, she worked with with families in order to understand the inequities they faced outside of the classroom. She took Spanish courses to have deeper conversations, served on the board of Dream Act Oklahoma in order to support many of their DACA needs, and invited families to showcase their skills in the classrooms to the community. As a result, she was nominated to represent the state of Oklahoma for the Sue Lehman Teaching and Learning Fellowship.

Her experience during the corps prompted her to help start an arts organization that equipped students with the skills to express themselves through spoken word, theater, dance, and painting. Although the arts camp is no longer around, she is invested in community organizing and redistributing resources to those who need them the most. She is currently the art instructor at The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges, sits on the Tulsa Board of Arts Commission, and works for Teach for America as a teacher alumni coordinator.

“I create space for individuals who might not necessarily know each other learn how to listen to each other’s needs and values so that they are more comfortable to work across all lines of diversity. Once they feel safe, I encourage them to build vision and co-create a new story based on their assets.”

Sally Ramirez

Art Instructor, The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges

Greater Tulsa '13

Francisco "Cisco" Juarez

Francisco "Cisco" Juarez (Greater Tulsa ‘18) 6th Grade Teacher - Webster Middle School

A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Francisco “Cisco” Juarez is a sixth grade teacher at Webster Middle School, where he is the science department chair. In addition to leading the math department, Cisco is Webster Middle School’s soccer and cross country coach.

Cisco credits his passion for education to his mom, who immigrated to the United States in hopes of offering him a better life. As a first-generation Mexican American and college graduate, his Latinx identity shows up in his work daily. He strives to bring transparency and optimism into his classroom, two values he learned from his mom at an early age. 

He never thought a degree in public communication would land him in Tulsa but he is glad it did. He joined Teach For America to challenge students to surprise themselves with what they are capable of and in the end, his experiences in and outside of the classroom and resilience has shaped him into the educator and leader he is today.

“Becoming a teacher has brought to light my Latinx identify in the most impactful way for my students as well as myself. Without my first year of teaching in the corps, I would have never truly come to terms with my identity as a first-generation American and college graduate. Just as my mother always told me, I continue to promote the importance of education to my students and most importantly, I value the importance of optimism in my classroom, la vida es buena (life is good).”

Cisco Juare

Teacher, Webster Middle School

Greater Tulsa '18

Alexandra “Alex” Hurtado

Alexandra “Alex” Hurtado (Greater Tulsa ‘17) 4th Grade Teacher - Dual Language Academy

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Alexandra “Alex” Hurtado received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. After graduating from UNLV, she applied to Teach For America to help expand educational opportunity and access to children. 

In 2017, Alex joined Teach For America and began teaching fourth grade at Dual Language Academy, a public magnet school offering bilingual education to all children starting in pre-K. She loves coming to school every day to hear her students speak in their native language and learn a second one at the same time. She is a passionate advocate for bilingual education because every child deserves to learn in their native language without feeling as if they have to give it up when they start school.

“I am proud to be Latina and want my students to never doubt themselves. I want to help them explore what they already are and what they know they can be.”

Alex Hurtado

Teacher, Dual Language Academy

Greater Tulsa '17

In 2019, Alex was nominated and selected as Dual Language Academy’s Teacher of the Year for her excellence in instruction and support of her students. She hopes her students remember the relationships that they fostered while in her class and what kind of love and respect they deserve.

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