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My Reach Journey: A purpose-driven calling into teaching

It only takes a second to fully comprehend how Nancy Mondragon’s unwavering determination has positioned her to be a high-impact educator in Arkansas’ Waldron School District. Her energy is infectious and her resilience is inspiring.

Born and raised in San Diego, Nancy’s parents worked hard to provide for her and her two sisters. In trying to do things the right way, her parents faced a period where the immigration process took them back to Mexico, leaving Nancy and her sisters on their own for two years.


“It was awful, but we had a lot of family who helped. I was in community college, but we had cars and rent to pay for, so I dropped out to help my younger sister, who graduated as valedictorian from her high school.”

She married early into her 20’s and started a family, followed by attending vocational school. She worked as a nurse in pediatrics and internal medicine, but her heart wasn’t in it. When her parents moved to Arkansas, she and her husband followed - sight unseen. Her skills were in demand, and with many job offers under her belt, she worked in private daycare and healthcare.


It was when she received a call from her son’s principal that her professional journey was rerouted into education. With no interview, Mondragon was offered a job to assist Spanish-speaking families and low-income students transition into the school district. After two years, and supporting countless families, she moved into a general paraprofessional role, where she wears many hats.


“I have a million responsibilities at school. I start with cafeteria duty in the morning, and then I work with kindergarten to fourth graders who are behind in math and English,” says Mondragon.


Nancy is driven to work with kids and recalled a teacher who was an inspiration. “I had a third-grade teacher who pushed to get me and my siblings out of ESL classes. She’ll forever be my favorite person because she knew we had so much potential. She spent her own money on higher level reading for us and translated for my parents,” said Mondragon.


When Nancy discovered Reach, it was a "blessing" and she pushed to become one of the first in her district to utilize this program. “I wouldn’t have gone back to school without Reach because I didn’t have the time or money for it. I’m still paying off student loans from vocational school,” she says. “I can plan around two days a week and they offer the funding.”


Now more than halfway through the program, she’s looking forward to a full-time teaching role soon. “My heart is set on second grade, but I’ll be happy anywhere,” says Mondragon. “The Reach experience has been good for me. I learn from the classroom and see what is working. And I know it will make me a good teacher.”


Nancy Mondragon, a Reach candidate and paraprofessional, working with 4th grade students in her district.


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