November is a month where people across the United States sit down to collectively count their blessings. Gratitude is a powerful way to connect with the good that surrounds us each day.
We couldn’t let the month go by without expressing our gratitude to the amazing teachers we work with each day. This month, in particular, we wanted to highlight a very special teacher: Abner Soto-Henry.
Abner is a teaching rockstar in Washington D.C., helping students earn a wide variety of certifications, including Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate, and IC3. Originally from Costa Rica, Abner quickly connected with students at the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy. “I love teaching at LAYC. It’s amazing to engage and empower these young people with a college preparatory education, career training, and college-credit classes. I absolutely love what I do.”
His passion for education started from a very young age. “I’ve been teaching since 1996, but I’ve been immersed in education from the time I was little. My grandmother and great aunt were both teachers back in Costa Rica at the end of the 70s. I grew up watching them and I always enjoyed their love for their profession. That’s why I became a teacher after finishing at the University in Costa Rica. In addition, my teachers in high school were able to make learning so much fun that I wanted to be part of that profession and be able to inspire students of my own like they inspired me.”
And inspire them he did. “I’ve earned over 50 certifications and credentials over the years. I want to show my students that I’m invested in learning too.” Of course, numbers aren’t the only thing that drives Abner as a teacher. “Seeing my students passing certifications and watching them move into the professional IT world is so inspirational. One of the most inspiring examples for me was two students that started with me when they were 8 years old during the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and continued with the Digital Connectors Program as teenagers, and after graduating from High School they moved to LAYCCA to complete the IT Pathway and they graduated at the age of 23. Now they both have good jobs in the IT field. They are three of my most tenacious students, and have the most inspiring stories, the kind that keep me motivated to continue teaching.”
Luckily these stories power Abner through his whirlwind daily schedule. Each day starts at 5:45 AM, with the bell ringing for class at 9 AM. A full teaching load in the morning, no break for lunch (“During lunch students come to the lab to have lunch and practice any IT material, especially for the Microsoft Office Specialist US National Championship.”), and a full teaching load in the afternoon. As if that’s not enough, Abner fills his late afternoons and evenings with meetings, lesson prep, and more open lab time for his students. He also teaches community classes a few days a week, giving back to those who aren’t in his classes. “I usually make it home for dinner, but then often spend the evening working through lesson plans and organizing for the following day, or I’ll read articles to stay up to date on technology.”
A schedule like that is familiar for many teachers. Teaching, especially in a non-traditional classroom, offers many challenges, not just a tight schedule. “It’s definitely tough to find time to get everything done, but the most difficult thing for me is meeting the needs of each individual student, making a connection with everyone in my classroom. One of the most difficult things is that some students are unable to attend classes on a regular basis because they need to work and support their families. And as a teacher I need to be a problem solver with my students to help them figure out how they can complete their studies while they have competing priorities with their jobs and family life.
“We face so many obstacles as teachers. Overall, I think educators should be compensated better industry-wide because of the important role that they play in shaping our world’s future leaders. If we want to change the face of our society, we need to provide more resources to help teachers create environments that embrace individual differences.”
Despite all the obstacles, Abner is enthralled with education. “It’s so important to remember what I love about teaching. One of the best parts of my job is that teaching is NEVER the same from day to day. Every day is new and interesting! Even though the material I teach is consistent, the students change and that brings different questions and ways of explaining the material.
“Of course, it’s the students that always keep me going. It’s fantastic to have an influence on students as they learn key abilities that will serve them for the rest of their careers. Watching them connect the dots, watching them have that “aha” moment, or watching them graduate from our program. It makes it all worth it.”
What advice does Abner have for teachers and students across the country? “Teachers, be patient with, and inspiring to your students all the time. Be passionate about your profession. Students, study hard to accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Be kind and respectful to everyone around you. Smile, laugh, have fun, and find joy in every day.”
Thank you, Abner, for spreading your joy to decades of students! You can learn from teachers like Abner at Certiport’s CERTIFIED Educator’s Conference. Get all the details at www.certiport.com/certified.