Ana Rubio has lost one student to gang violence for every year she has taught in Miami-Dade schools. That’s 16 young lives. Sixteen children murdered in the streets returning home from school. Or playing at the park. Or on their front lawn in front of their families.
That’s also 16 years Ana has been making a difference in this country’s fourth largest school system.
At this time of the year, when we’re observing Teacher Appreciation Week, it’s important to reflect on the lengths that our best teachers will go to as they educate our children. And to celebrate them. That’s what we did recently with Ana Rubio and her colleagues.
Earlington Heights Elementary, the school where Ana has taught since 2006, sits in a tough area.
Built in 1936, the school, which is made out of coral rock, is a historical monument with large classrooms, tall ceilings and beautiful wood floors. It literally is a safe haven sitting in the lap of one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods.
Across the street sits a middle school that Ana describes as a prison. Teachers at Earlington do everything they can to give their children a good start and a good grounding before they cross the street to this middle school infested with gangs. Can you imagine? Picture working tirelessly for six years to nurture and shape the most innocent and then watching them walk into the throes of hell. The teachers of Earlington work relentlessly to send as many of their students to Magnet schools as possible. But it’s never enough.
So there is Streamline Miami, the non-profit Ana founded to help break social and economic barriers for Miami-Dade youth. A true servant leader, Ana has brought together the community and teachers to join her cause. Through Streamline Miami, some of Miami’s most at-risk students are getting a second chance.
It’s this work that has earned Ana the title of 2016-17 LifeChanger of the Year.
We surprised Ana with a welcome home party. It was a celebration honoring her and all of the staff at Earlington Heights for the selfless work they do day in and day out in one of the roughest parts of town. The 60 or so school employees who work within these walls – and outside of these walls for that matter – are true superheroes.
The fact that the children were even allowed outside all together for the afternoon is something that never happens. That’s how dangerous it can be in this part of town. But, we did it. Two of our top agencies who work in Miami-Dade schools, Appreciation Financial and ValuTeachers, along with nominating agent Stephen Young, helped us make it happen. There were police on the street protecting our bubble. We did it because these school employees deserve it. And their students deserve to see that good is greatest of all.
“You made us feel important – something we never feel,” Ana Rubio said after the event. “This whole experience has been somewhat therapeutic. It’s given me time to reflect and also to think about the future.”
Ana’s school and her district are not alone in the fight to save as many students as they can. It’s happening all over the country – and it can feel like swimming upstream. But, for so many of these school employees, fighting the current is just what they do every single day. They don’t blink an eye. And so National Life Group is honored to share their stories, celebrate their successes and recognize them through our LifeChanger of the Year program.