In late November I read an article about the new class of Rhodes Scholars that was recently announced. There are 32 U.S. students who were selected as Rhodes Scholars for 2021. Among the new Rhodes Scholars is Santiago Potes from Miami, Florida who graduated from Columbia University in May 2020. He has a broad background, with a major in Asian Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and interests in physics, philosophy, social psychology, neuroscience, leadership, and languages. He also has published widely about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
The main point that struck me about Santiago was what he said about his elementary school gifted and talented teacher who worked with him from second through fifth grades. He credits this teacher with the success he has had throughout his life because she exposed him to a rigorous education, even though Santiago was classified as a DACA student under American immigration policies. As a child of illegal immigrants, Santiago was educated and succeeded in Miami because, in part, his elementary gifted and talented teacher recognized his gifts and helped him flourish. The fact that Santiago publicly credits his GT teacher with his success is such a gift to his teacher. Most teachers toil daily and seldom hear about the outcomes of their efforts with students. GT students may stay in touch with teachers who had meaning to them more than other students, but still most teachers never hear from their students. It is touching that this young man, now a Rhodes Scholar, gives credit to his elementary GT teacher and urges a national discussion about the importance of elementary school teachers, since they have such an influence, either positive or negative, over young minds.
As we try to identify and reach gifted students who have diverse culture, language, disability, race and ethnicity, religion, gender, age, socioeconomic status, immigration status, sexual orientation, or other characteristics, it is important to remember that the effort is worth it, for if we reach even one student like Santiago, just imagine the impact on the world. We can improve the lives of others in exponential ways we will never know. That is the essence of teaching, and working together with students and parents -- our collective impact on others to improve their life is assured.
During these challenging times, given how we must teach and learn during a pandemic, take heart that teachers and parents are of value, and are working together to influence our children and youth. They are always watching.
I wish you and yours a blessed and joyful holiday season.
American Rhodes Scholars-elect for 2021
Santiago Potes, District 7, Florida
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