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Teacher Pushed Struggling Student To Honors

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Teacher Pushed Struggling Student To Honors

Teacher Pushed Struggling Student To Honors

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, for another conversation from StoryCorps, it's National Teacher's Initiative.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: This school year we'll be sharing stories from and about teachers. Today, we'll hear from Meliza Arellano, an 11th grader at a New York City charter school called Democracy Prep. When Meliza started there four years ago, she was below grade level in both math and reading. She was put in a class that helps students like her get up to speed. Her teacher was Sarah Benko. The pair recently sat down for StoryCorps to look back at Meliza's seventh grade year - the year she became a serious student.

MELIZA ARELLANO: You started taking me outside and you would tutor me. And that kind of made mad because, like, I kind of didn't like you at first.

SARAH BENKO: Oh, I remember.

ARELLANO: And you told me that I was, like, really below my grade level.

BENKO: You were.

ARELLANO: In my old school, I never went to class. I didn't want to be there. Like, basically, none of the teachers said anything to me, like you need to stay after school in order for me to help you do better in this. So, I guess I kind of rejected you 'cause nobody ever helped me before. It felt really weird. But there was a point where I finally got a good grade, and I realized that you were actually doing me good.

BENKO: And now you're in the honors class.

ARELLANO: Yes, I am. And you were actually the one that made me realize that I liked reading. I used to just look at the back blurb and, like, basically write almost everything that is said and, like, put it in my own words and turn it in.

BENKO: How many books did you read last year, do you think?

ARELLANO: I lost count. It was a lot. I was actually inspired by the fact that you helped me a lot, and so I want to be a teacher, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.

BENKO: You have a smooth face. You better get ready for some wrinkles. Don't worry too much if the kids like you or not. If you trust yourself that you want the best for them, don't worry if they see it right in that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: That's Sarah Benko with Meliza Arellano for StoryCorps in New York. Their interview, along with all National Teacher's Initiative interviews will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Get the StoryCorps podcast at NPR.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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