Coffee Break With Julia Burrola

This is part of a series of Q&As with New Mexico educators, parents, policy makers, wonks, leaders, and students. Find the entire series here.


 
 

Full Name: Julia Burrola
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Current City: Albuquerque, NM
Grade(s)/Subject(s) Currently Taught: 2nd and 3rd Grade Math
School and District: Mission Achievement & Success, Charter School


A new school year has just started, what are you most excited about for the 2018-19 school year? And what role does coffee play in your teacher universe?

I spend a lot of the summer thinking about ways to improve my instruction for the next year, so I am always excited for the school year to start. My current third grade students are students that I taught in first and second grade so it’s really exciting to see how far I can push them in math. They are some of the most hard working students I have ever taught and have really excelled in math because of the skills they have built since first grade.

Coffee is very essential to me having high energy for my students! I will often drink coffee before school and again in the middle of the day so I can keep up with my students all day.


You were recently featured in a #NMTrue video series highlighting teachers from across New Mexico. Tell us more about that experience and what you’ve learned.

The #NMTrue video was a lot of fun to shoot. I was intimidated at first, but I felt better when I was in my classroom teaching. I think it was a great opportunity for me to use my voice and also show some of the great aspects of my school. I learned that positivity in education goes a long way. I also learned that using my voice starts a great dialogue around some of the biggest teaching challenges.

 
This video highlights Julia Burrola - a 2nd and 3rd grade math teacher at Mission, Achievement and Success Charter School in Albuquerque.
 

 
 

Both of us are products of Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) - and UNM. As you start your sixth year of teaching, what do you know now about being a teacher in Albuquerque that you wish you would’ve known as a student?

I had really positive experiences as a student in APS. I think I was fortunate to attend really good schools and had some great teachers. I don’t think I always knew the struggles in other schools in APS. I remember being surprised when I first started college because many students from other schools struggled a lot more than I did.

UNM was also a really good experience for me. Tom Keyes was essential in me becoming a reflective teacher and my cohort was full of creative thinkers with great ideas. I wish I would have known the amount of work that it took for my teachers to be effective. I wish I would have known how fortunate I was to have skilled teachers who prepared me well for college. I would have appreciated my great teachers even more.


 
 

Tell us a bit about your family and the role they’ve played in growing up in Albuquerque and your decision to become a teacher. 

When I was little I remember everyone in my family valuing education. I specifically remember my Grandma Veronica always putting a huge emphasis on education. She was forced to drop out of school in the 2nd grade to care for her nieces and nephews, which lead her to value educational opportunities for her family even more. 

I believe that the value my family placed on school helped me see that education is essential in building a life. My family has always supported me being a teacher. I always knew that I wanted to teach and my family has always been my biggest support system.

I have a lot of pride in Albuquerque. It is a beautiful place to live. I am excited to work at a school that is part of a positive change in our city. Albuquerque has always had areas that are underserved and I have always wanted to teach in those areas because I know those students can be successful. I want to give all students the same opportunity that my family gave me.


 
 

Speaking of families, we know how important that support is for students. What do you say to families about the best ways to support both their students and teachers to encourage a strong working relationship?

Family support is really important for student success. I know parents are very busy. It is always great when parents can read at home or ask math questions in the car. However, the best way they can support is simply by bringing their students to school everyday. Attendance is a big factor in student success.

Beyond that parents should try their best to engage in communication with teachers so they can be a strong team. Communication and involvement looks different depending on the family situation, but it is important that an effort is made to communicate as much as possible. We are in the age of communication and that is key in supporting a child's success.


 
 

You’ve shared your support for PARCC and concern about New Mexico getting rid of it without having a viable alternative in place. (Which is supported by recent historical evidence). What do you say to those clamoring to throw the assessment we’ve had for five years out the window? 

PARCC is one of the best assessments because the types of questions are rigorous and require students to think deeply. I think any assessment would have critics. Honestly, many of the most common complaints about PARCC would be true with any assessment, and an assessment is not only required by Federal law via ESSA, but it is also essential in ensuring equity for our students. 

As a teacher I am thankful to have high-quality comparative data. NMPED has made many improvements to PARCC in the last few years based on feedback from teachers; a new assessment would mean starting this process from the beginning again. Consistency is valuable.

I also think it is really important for teachers and other concerned people to voice their concerns and solutions to the correct people. For example, the number of days spent testing is a district's choice. If someone is concerned about loss of instructional time, they should talk to their testing coordinator and discuss ways to limit the days spent on the test.


Red or green?

I love red chile if my mom or dad makes it; otherwise green because you can easily put it on anything!