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Community Living Spotlight: San José Edition

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in San José? Check out what our current corps members have to say!

Community Living Spotlight: San Jose

By The TFA Editorial Team

October 12, 2017

Share a little about your neighborhood.

Matthew: I live in South San José. San José is special to me because it is where I was born, it is where I attended school, and – simply stated – it is where I grew up.

Lizeth: I currently live in East Side San José. I really like its culturally diversity and amazing restaurants. There are always people out and about – which is great because sometimes I run into students while my roommates (who are also corps members) and I are out walking our dog.

Thomas: My partner and I live in Sunnyvale, a community about 20 minutes north of downtown San José. I love Sunnyvale because there is a rich, small-community vibe – but it’s still close enough to San José so that it doesn’t feel too small. The community culture is vibrant and it often unfolds downtown, especially at the weekend farmers market.  

Outside of your neighborhood, where's your go-to place to explore?

Matthew: One of my favorite San José neighborhoods is Willow Glen. There is a small-town feel, and it’s filled with coffee shops and small boutique/vintage shops. Willow Glen is also home to Icicles, one of my favorite Thai ice cream shops.

Lizeth: I really like Santana Row because of the food and shopping, as well as being able to enjoy dinner. There are also many bars to socialize at. Willow Glen has amazing brunch! And I love Peter’s Bakery in the East Side – it has the BEST dessert in all of San José.

Describe your weekends in San José.

Matthew: I usually spend Fridays and Saturdays with my family members. I visit my grandmother and help her with any errands she needs completed. My Saturday morning usually comprises of the gym and lesson planning.

Lizeth: I like going on some hikes nearby – there’s so many out here.

Thomas: Sunday brunch, strolling down the SoMa District, Taco Tuesday, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival are just some of the many things I like to do. On long weekends, you can maybe find me sipping on wine at a nearby vineyard if I’m not at the beach.


Favorite hangout spot? 

Lizeth: Given my personality and background, I really enjoy the Willow Glen Area since it that has many Latinx food options. The Mexican and Salvadorian restaurants are amazing, and it feels like Little Mexico!

Thomas: The food options in the South Bay are endless. I try to pick a new place to eat every weekend, and I have not been disappointed. From some of the best Indian cuisine I have ever had to Mexican Mole, there are always new options to try. I often enjoy stopping at one of the many food trucks in the area and trying something new.

What makes this city feel like home?

Matthew: I am proud to call myself a San José native! I was born and raised in the city. I attended Holy Family School for K-8 and then Bellarmine College Preparatory for high school. San José is where my family lives. It is my community, it is where I call home, and I cannot imagine teaching anywhere else.

Lizeth: The people I live with (all from the TFA community) hold the experiences I’ve had, which are similar to that of our students. In addition, my co-workers constantly support me in the ways my family did back home. Not to mention Lorena (TFA staff member who manages school partnerships in San José) is basically a mom.

What about the students and families make San José so unique?

Matthew: My students are humble, authentic, humorous and excited to learn. What impresses me most is when a student struggles with specific content, their peers always extend a helping hand! This level of care and compassion my students show for one another is rare and appreciated. And more importantly, this compassion creates a community of lifelong learners who care about and are committed to the success of their peers. No amount of lesson planning could replicate this natural beauty.

Lizeth: Parents are extremely involved in their child’s education. They constantly ask me how I’m doing and how their children are doing, which makes me to feel supported as a human and an educator for their students. As for my students…I love them! They’re great and their potential is limitless. My students embrace school. They see the value in their education, which makes me want to be present for my students in all ways. It’s energizing.

Thomas: The students and families here are extremely motivated. My students come to class with a burning passion to learn. They are curious about our learning targets and ready for a challenge. The families here are invested in the academic success of the students. It has been inspiring to interact with them at school and at community events. I think this community is unique because education here feels like an all-hands-on-deck effort, and there’s a real focus on making sure students have the tools they need to be successful.

What’s the cultural wealth of this city you bring into the classroom?


Matthew: San José is rich in diversity, and I joyfully celebrate this diversity in my classroom! My students come from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and different belief systems (among countless other differences). Students share these experiences in the classroom when we cover social justice topics – such as immigration, poverty, civil rights and more – all in connection to history.

Lizeth: San José is extremely diverse, and my classroom represents that diversity. Pockets of San José reflect a specific culture, and having those spaces to learn in (in addition to museums here) allows me to incorporate elements into my lessons that relate to my students. This ability to relate then translates to a greater love for the work and one another.

Thomas: We are in the birthplace of social movements led by leaders such as César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Even in just taking a stroll downtown, you can see monuments and plazas dedicated to the progress this community has made. Connecting my class’ learning to the larger, societal impact that my students can make is not very hard when I can point to local leaders who have made such a big impact for our country.