From Student to Teacher, East Boston HS Educator Gives Back

Tyrone Figueroa, East Boston HS Teacher

A teacher gives back to his community

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

In my last blog post, I talked about building relationships with people in the schools I work with. Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite teachers, Tyrone Figueroa. How Tyrone came to be a teacher is an interesting story.

I first met Tyrone last fall. He was teaching the Senior Math Seminar, one of the classes in which we embed our JFYNet College and Career Readiness program. In the course of working with him I got to know a little bit about his story.

Tyrone grew up in East Boston and went through the Boston public schools. He is a graduate of the school he now teaches at, East Boston High, where he played football and basketball. He was a star running back and many people thought he had the talent to play professional football. He knew that to make it to the pros he needed to go to a Division 1 school. He was planning on attending UMass Amherst but changed his mind and decided to stay closer to home. He chose Framingham State and studied business while playing football and basketball.

How did Tyrone make the transition from pro football to studying business to teaching school? In his words,

“My main objective in life is being able to ‘give back.’ Working at the school I graduated from has allowed me to do just that. I am now able to give back to the community that raised me by serving as a positive role model for my students and helping prepare them for the future.”

Over the course of many conversations, I learned that Tyrone began forming this objective as a teenager while working at the local YMCA and teen center as a teen leader. He worked with young people, coaching them in sports but also helping with their school work. He naturally became a mentor to many. This is where the seed was planted for a career in education. While working with these youngsters, Tyrone saw the impact he could have in their lives. Eventually he went back to school and got a Masters of Education degree. He now teaches some of the same students he mentored at the teen center when they were younger.

As a teacher, he is able to relate to his students because he was just like them at their age. I’ve witnessed his interactions with his students and you can see that he really cares about them and they listen to him. He wants them to succeed, not only in school but in life. He tells them that he was once sitting in the same classrooms they are now in. He knows that success in the classroom will lead to an increase in their self-esteem, and that going to college, pursuing a trade, or going into the military will put them on a path to succeed in life.

Tyrone is a mentor to his students both inside and outside the classroom. He is an assistant football coach and girls’ basketball coach. On the field and the court he stresses the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, important lessons to learn in life.

I don’t know too many people who have the opportunity to give back directly to the people and community that nurtured them and made them who they are. Tyrone is one of those people. He shows his gratitude for the community that helped shape him every time he enters the front door of the school where he once was a student and takes his place as a teacher at the front of his classroom.

Every student should have a teacher and mentor like Tyrone. Every time I see him writing equations on the whiteboard or explaining exponents to a student, I am grateful to have the opportunity to call him a colleague and a friend.

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