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TFA alum and new TFA corps member sitting together

Following in Their Teacher’s Footsteps

Three Teach For America corps members continue a longstanding teaching tradition.

March 6, 2024
Alejandra Torres Teach For America

Alejandra Torres

Alejandra Torres Teach For America

Alejandra Torres

When Aberdeen Rodriguez joined Teach For America in the Rio Grande Valley in 2007, she couldn’t have imagined she would be the first in a two-decade chain of students making a difference by becoming teachers themselves. In the corps, Rodriguez served as a ninth grade English and journalism teacher, but her impact extended beyond the classroom and into the lives of her students.

One of those students, Abril Flores, decided to follow in Rodriguez’s footsteps and become a Teach For America corps member herself in 2013, also in the RGV. 

Now, Flores is passing the torch to one of her former students. Job (pronounced like home) Martinez will step into the classroom this fall as a 2024 Teach For America corps member, also in the Rio Grande Valley–the same place where it all began.

“It is beautiful and awe-inspiring to experience the ripple effect of our collective work, and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

Aberdeen Rodriguez

Rio Grande Valley Corps Member 2007

As an adult, Flores still vividly remembers the influence Rodriguez had on her.

“She allowed me to use the computer to research colleges, she gave me feedback on my resume, she let me print out as many documents as I needed to,” Flores said. “She was always providing that guidance, knowing that I didn’t have any of that or a space to be able to do basic things like that. I don't think I would have even gone to college without her support." 

The mentorship Rodriguez provided was instrumental in Flores’ pursuit of higher education. 

Years later, in one of her college courses, Flores researched educational inequity for a class project and remembered Rodriguez was a Teach For America corps member. She looked deeper into TFA’s mission and realized this was the impact she wanted to have on students, too.

“Ms. Rodriguez really allowed me to see that anything was possible in my life. For me, that was a big lesson.”

Abril Flores

Rio Grande Valley Corps Member 2013

Fulfilling her commitment, Flores did the same for her own students when it was her turn to be a teacher, 

Martinez was a student in Flores’ government and history high school classes in 2018. He is set to graduate this spring from the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley with a master’s degree in business administration and embark on his career as a teacher in the fall.

Flores maintained a strong relationship with Martinez, and his mother, throughout the years, providing support and guidance. She was 100 percent supportive when Martinez told her he was considering the corps. 

“Job definitely sees the value in education because that is something that's important to him and his family,” Flores said. “Knowing education is key to helping others, he sees it in a way like, ‘Yes, I'm learning, but it's a tool for me so I can expand my capacity in which I can help others.’”

To say the feeling of appreciation is mutual would be an understatement. 

“I've attributed a lot of my success to mentors. Having someone who was there, who saw my growth in high school, and my academic journey was monumental.”

Job Martinez

Rio Grande Valley Corps Member 2024

This story of Teach For America corps members inspiring their students to become educators is a powerful reminder of how deeply student-teacher relationships matter—they have the power to plant seeds of hope, affirmation, and positive change. 

Martinez said he is particularly grateful for financial support Flores gave him and his family as he was working toward becoming a full citizen. He began this journey in high school and Flores hired and paid for a lawyer herself to ensure the documentation forms were fully complete. 

 “I'll never forget that,” Martinez said. “I'll never forget that.”

Now, as the beginning of his teaching career dawns, Martinez hopes to pay it forward with the next generation of students. 

“I'm really excited to get in front of a classroom and see what the needs of kids are today. What are some of the challenges they're struggling with? What are some general roadblocks they're experiencing in today's world?” he said. “I think a teacher's job goes past the confines of the classroom.”

Who knows? Maybe in a few years one of his students will be joining the TFA corps, too.

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