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Nate Rios Current Affairs, Education, Equity, Social Issues

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A tropical storm rolled in on what would become a lazy Sunday. Rain is still novel enough for my family to sit outside and watch it pour. So I sat and thought. I felt like this move would be a chance to recharge my battery. A chance to recalibrate my values, experience adventure, and accept new challenges. And all those are true. I’ve had more family time than I’ve had in years. Switching from secondary to primary has offered educational challenges and opportunities that I didn’t know were possible (On a side note, kudos to primary educators. You all are magic.). But here I was, lazy Sunday and restless. 

The previous weekend my wife and I visited the public high school on a neighboring island. One of the most densely populated areas on earth, Ebeye has numerous private schools but only one public high school; a tiny fraction of the teenage population can attend. Meeting faculty and wandering in and out of the classrooms, it’s obvious the needs are plenty. No running water. Limited access to the internet. Teacher turnover. But students were ready to learn. Each student’s smile a slice of hope in an overwhelming place. My wife and I left, full of questions of how we could help. We were optimistic and enamored with what could be; with this nagging sense of hope becoming my lazy Sunday.

Hope is a strange feeling. Especially in regards to 2020. But beyond that, it’s something more and wholly unique. Sustaining and strong, delicate and instantaneous, hope is as valuable a currency as we’ve got. Watching the inauguration and experiencing its calm and reverent tone gave me permission to process. To tackle the complexity of deep hope and ponder its duality. The reality that what we believe could or will be, exists as result of its lack of reality. Educators encounter this daily. For years I experienced how hope could fuel my professional journey but challenge my personal resolve. As a result, my perseverance was stretched too thin to process the complexities of providing, yet subsisting on, hope. It’s a constant balancing act of what is and what may be. But during the pandemic? The duality of educator hope is amplified. 

So we try to push on. Each day the promise that hope can transform into reality. Recently, a former student purchased their first house. Emotional, he explained how much it meant to give his family something he never had. In his eyes, to beat a system that incessantly weighed on him. As teachers, we see and feel the effects of poverty in every nook and cranny of our student’s lives. They carry weight unseen in ways that can push them down and pull them up. But this is why we teach. Our restless moments turned into the energy needed to make our hope a reality. But it’s not our problem alone. In our communities we all feel the same urgency and meet the same challenges. To transform our hope and impact the lives of those who didn’t choose their current situations. 

Whether Ebeye or our neighborhood, we have a role to play as educators. Not as saviors or loner superheroes, but as a wonderfully mindful piece to a larger hope. The hope that the systems that push and pull our children are in constant deconstruction if only we can find our ways to stay balanced and restless. Ever mindful of the duality of hope.



Nate Rios has been a staple of the Flowing Wells community for 20 years. Even before earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religious Studies from the University of Arizona and a post-baccalaureate certification in 2007, he was a part of Flowing Wells High School, in Tucson, Arizona. Beginning in 2000, at the age of 18, Rios began volunteering to help mentor students through the non-profit Young Life. Long before teaching, he felt a calling to care for high school students regardless of their life situations. Due to his teaching experience, his values have grown even stronger: relationships always come first. In his 13 years teaching, Rios has worn many hats. Student Council, National Honors Society, leadership retreat, department chair, new teacher induction instructor, and instructional coach are just some of the many ways he’s contributed to the high school community. In 2018 he was an ambassador for teachers as a featured educator in Tucson Values Teacher’s documentary, TEACHING IN ARIZONA. His experiences caring for students and teachers both inside and outside of the classroom have led him all over the state to speak on behalf of educators and Arizona students. In 2020, his efforts culminated in his selection as an Arizona Educational Association Ambassador for Excellence. Ask any of his colleagues or students and they’ll tell you that he is dedicated to the betterment of the lives of every child and teacher.

Comments 1

  1. Sandy Merz

    “…hope could fuel my professional journey but challenge my personal resolve.”

    “Whether Ebeye or our neighborhood, we have a role to play as educators. Not as saviors or loner superheroes, but as a wonderfully mindful piece to a larger hope.”

    What great comments on the actual mind-set we work in and our place in society’s and individuals’ puzzles. I’d rather be a piece in my students’ and colleagues’ lives than their hero.

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