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Leaps of Faith

Nate Rios Current Affairs, Education, Elementary, Equity, Life in the Classroom, Social Issues

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30 feet high and nothing but crystal ocean and coral sand below. Jumping wasn’t just an act but a declaration. A chance to risk. 

Being 11 is difficult. Moving across the world complicates things. In my previous post I mentioned the residual trauma carried by my daughters, 4 and 9, as we entered into a pre-Covid society, from a Covid reality. My son didn’t develop the same conditions. He exited our 5 week quarantine with vigor. He was the first to ride around the island, buy groceries at the store, and seek friendships. But his tenacity has waned. His passion has turned to “sure” and “okay.” 

For context, his childhood friendships are strong. Kids he’s known since pre-k are still a part of his life, weathering the storms of a pandemic. He still logs into his gifted and talented classroom, via Zoom, a few times a month. He’s loyal, thoughtful, analytical, artistic, and a good friend. But he’s struggled to find genuine connection as we’ve entered into island life. With his friends 19 hours behind, it’s difficult to find common time to talk and connect. Further, so much of who he is has been shaped by where he’s been and what he’s experienced, a reality that’s all too familiar to adults but brand new to a tween. So he pines for simpler times in Tucson.

But, honestly, his Tucson friends have scattered. One’s in Phoenix. Another in Red Rocks. One stayed remote. Still another switched to a neighboring school. Even if he were returning this week, his familiar friends would be lacking. As much as we pretend normalcy begins with our school launches, it’s all so different. For him, the changes he experiences in Kwajalein are painfully obvious. But for many Arizona students, expecting familiarity is natural and receiving it a mirage. In spite of our best efforts to create stability and structure for students and, correctly, lean on our practice to soften the landing, there will inevitably be moments of leaps. Leaps of faith into new classrooms, new teachers, new learning and new friends. Leaps that require students to push themselves more than they ever would have before. Leaps that may feel more monumental than they look.

My son jumped. 3 stories, coral, sand; and he jumped. The 4 new friends who also jumped will never replace his childhood ones, but shared risk creates bonds. Watching them talk and laugh at the front of the boat was hopeful, not because he’s moving on, but because he’s learning that living is big. He’s learning that the love and connections he has with his Tucson friends are no lesser for the new bonds he forges. He’s growing stronger and more aware with each moment of overcome adversity. And although difficult, he’s better for it. 

As you finish this week, whether teaching pre-k or 12th, it’s important to reflect on the role you’ll play in your student’s leaps. Each of them will enter with expectations and, inevitably, face a different reality. We must choose to foster the bravery needed to create something new that will come to define our moment. Helping students who seek the present as a return, create the future with their leaps.


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.

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