Chicago's Solorio High School Showed Me Exactly the Kind of Teacher I Want to Be

What I loved about Solorio was that I really got to know the teachers. Teachers wouldn’t talk down to us. It wasn’t lecture style. We would learn as much as we could about a reading or an assignment outside of class and then we would come in and ask questions. They would encourage us to talk about everything we wanted to talk about. If we went on a tangent, it was fine. They would encourage it rather than force us to learn what we didn’t want to learn. It helped us to get to know our teachers. When I’m a teacher I want to do the same thing. [pullquote position=“right”]They wouldn’t ever tell us, “Don’t come up to me at this time.” Teachers were there at 7:00 a.m. and most didn’t leave until like 5:00 p.m. I felt like they were there all the time. I could go up to them any time with a question or a problem and they would help you as much as they could. They wouldn’t ever tell us, “Don’t come up to me at this time.” They didn’t tell us no. It seems like a simple technique but it felt like we could go up to our teachers when we wanted. I signed up for beginning band starting in my junior year of high school. But I met the band director, Ms. Mollinedo, even before I started learning a musical instrument. She said I looked like the main character Link from the “Legend of Zelda” games. Even before she was my teacher, we would see each other in the hall and she would say “Hi, Link!” With every new band student, Ms. Mollinedo does a test to see which instrument is going to come easier. She had a trombone mouthpiece, a flute joint, other ones, and she’d let you try them to see. I got noise out of the flute joint right away. I was really happy I did because I had always been interested in the flute from the “Legend of Zelda” games, especially the music from “Ocarina of Time.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xYepfHNlL4 Once I started band, I would take the flute home every day, even over the weekends, and practice for 30 minutes to an hour. It was so fun it didn’t even feel like practicing. I would play from the methods book. I would go on YouTube and look up sheet music that would play along with you. I would follow along. That was my practice routine. During senior year music became more habitual. I started and ended the day with jazz band before and after school. I was in the band room during lunch and took marching band during the school day. I was section leader, my band director would make me lead sectionals, I was starting to learn music theory—I was really interested in theory and teaching—and I really wanted to learn more instruments.

Physics First sparked my interest in math

As a freshman, I took honors algebra and physics at the same time. Traditionally, the high school science sequence starts with biology, then moves on to chemistry and physics. But that’s exactly backwards for helping students understand modern biochemistry and how cells really work. To build a base for understanding the latest in science knowledge, it’s better to start with physics first, as we do at Solorio. [pullquote position=“left”]When I took algebra and physics together, that’s when I really started to notice I liked math and numbers. That was really interesting—we started learning about rates and proportions in mathematics and kind of glimpsing at geometry and seeing how it connected with physics. I just really liked that integration. That’s what really sparked it for me. As a sophomore I took two math classes at once: geometry and trigonometry/advanced algebra. It prepared me to take calculus my senior year. It was a good companion to chemistry, too. It was the math aspects of chemistry I was starting to like—I was interested in all the formulas. I was very lucky to have just two math teachers in high school—each for two years in a row. My calculus teacher was great and I earned a 4 on the Advanced Placement exam. It took me a minute to decide whether to major in math or music. At first I was hesitant to major in music because I only started flute as a junior. But when I looked back on all my experience I realized I had come a long way in a short time and I wanted to continue going deep into music. When I graduate, I will have a degree in music education with a minor in math and an endorsement for math teaching. I’ll be able to teach both subjects. I always remember Solorio is there for us. They encourage alumni to keep in contact. When I come back to visit, Ms. Mollinedo has me lead sectionals for students or give small lessons and tips. I love the feeling I get from teaching somebody something new. Also, I see there are a lot of problems in Chicago. I don’t like running away from the problems. I want to be part of the solution by being a teacher.
Jonathan Patino, Eric Solorio High School class of 2016, is now majoring in music education with a minor in math at St. Xavier University in Chicago. Solorio is among Chicago’s highest-performing neighborhood high schools, and is a training site for Academy of Urban School Leadership resident teachers.

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