Sandra Noriega teaches fourth grade GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) at White Elementary. Noriega says it was her child’s GATE teacher—also at White Elementary—who motivated her to become a teacher.
When her own two children, now young adults, attended White, Noriega volunteered in the classroom.
“They went through the same program I now teach in,” she explains. It was their teacher, Mrs. Slaw, who was a beacon to her, leading her into the classroom. “Another teacher was my inspiration to become a teacher,” explains Noriega.
Noriega moved to Tucson from California with her parents when she was just 4. She worked at Hughes Missiles Systems (now Raytheon) for 10 years before she was bitten by the teaching bug. She has been teaching in TUSD for 12 years.
“She’s an excellent GATE teacher. She’s always helping others,” student Chelsea writes. Chelsea and her family have known Noriega for five years. “She’s always improving herself, taking classes to be a better leader. She cares about her students and she helps us...encourages us to do better,” Chelsea writes.
Noriega serves on the Tucson Education Association. She says, “I’m very passionate about what I do. In particular, I am very passionate about gifted students in our state.”
In her free time, Noriega likes to take advantage of Arizona’s state and national parks. She enjoys exploring, trailing and hiking, she says.
While her favorite subjects in school were math, art and P.E., Noriega says that she loves to teach her students leadership skills, which she notes are very important traits to have in the 21st century. She also enjoys teaching social studies and literacy.
Right now, Noriega’s students are doing research on Arizona and its native tribes, and soon they will “create awesome projects,” she says. “I like to encourage my students to speak up for themselves,” she says. “In situations (involving) social justice, I want them be able to advocate for themselves.”