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Profiles in Resilience: Developing Through Diversity

Colorado special education teacher Zahria Rogers on finding common ground with students.

Zahria Rogers Teaching Remotely

By Kaley LaQuea

May 10, 2021

In what has been the hardest year in recent memory, Teach For America Colorado's teachers are showing up stronger than ever to support our state's most underserved students. We're telling their stories — see below for Zahria's and take a look at more Profiles in Resilience.

Zahria didn't see herself represented in the teachers she had growing up.

“A lot of the teachers I had were white. I had some really awesome teachers, but I always wished I had a more diverse group of teachers. I would’ve valued their experiences too.”

Now as a special education teacher at Panorama Middle School in her hometown of Colorado Springs, Zahria’s students come from many different backgrounds—something unique for the southern Colorado city.

“I love it. I have a kid from Cuba in one corner, and then in the other corner I have a kid who's from Iraq. And we can engage in discussions and realize that some of us have had similar experiences,” she said.

Zahria decided to stay in the town where she was born and raised to pursue education with Teach For America particularly because she felt connected to her community. She says embracing her classroom’s diversity provides avenues and opportunities to have discussions about identity and culture.

“Nobody comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, I love that you're my only Black teacher.’ But I do think kids feel comfortable coming to me, especially if they’re experiencing race-related issues. It's helpful to have somebody who understands a little of what they're going through.”

Special Education, Online

When schools pivoted to virtual learning last March, a few of Zahria’s students had a parent who was able to stay home and help them learn. But many parents had to continue working to support their families, compounding the host of challenges her special education students faced as they tried to learn in a virtual environment.

Zahria immediately set a goal to build trust and connection and to help her students use the challenges of this year to hone a set of skills that will serve them beyond the classroom. She recognizes that her students face a host of stigmas against people with disabilities, and she hopes this year has helped her students see and appreciate their innate gifts and talents.

Zahria’s students are back in person now, and while it’s been a challenging year, she recognizes how the pandemic has also contributed to her personal growth as an educator. “It's been a test of my resiliency, my ability to adapt, all of those things.”