Q&A with Jorge Santos ’10CPS, ’12G, ’18GEd, LEAD Honoree

Q&A with Jorge Santos ’10CPS, ’12G, ’18GEd, LEAD Honoree
February 27, 2024

Jorge Santos ’10CPS, ’12G, ’18GEd, an author and teacher, will be among several alumni honored by The School of Education at the 13th Annual Leaders in Education Awards Dinner (LEAD) on April 11 in the D’Angelo Center on St. John’s University’s Queens, NY, campus.

Congratulations! What does it feel like to receive this award?

Receiving the LEAD award is a distinct honor. To be recognized for the work I passionately do in education is truly meaningful. I am excited and proud to share this moment with family, friends, and fellow colleagues in the field.

Please tell us more about yourself and your current profession.

I am a special education math teacher at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens, NY. My roles have included being a Peer Collaborative Teacher, Grade Team Leader, Restorative Justice Coordinator, and member of the instructional leadership team. My main focus is centering curriculum and pedagogy around equity and restorative justice practices.

As a teacher leader, I’ve developed schoolwide training to support teachers in equity practices and dismantle structures limiting student opportunities. The key areas of focus include student representation, collaborative work, affirming and celebrating students, teacher practices, and school values. These equity practices are the emphasis of professional development inquiry cycles to create classrooms of inclusivity and community. I’ve led this work through lab classrooms and supporting colleagues in implementing a practice in their classrooms.

I’m developing a mathematics curriculum that centers around identity building and multiracial narratives as I seek to continuously implement Indigenous and African cultures into math classrooms.

I’ve been published by TheEducatorsRoom.com; EducationPost.org; Parents.com; and Teach for America. I’ve been featured in the Time magazine article, “You Can’t Be Silent. Schools Brace for the Presidential Election Aftermath,” and “The Instagramification of the Protest Movement,” on Mic.com.

I served as a panelist for the New York City Men Teach event, “Decolonizing The Curriculum” and a presenter for “Moment to Movement” featuring Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D. At the EL Education National Conference, I presented my interdisciplinary work that increased student engagement. I presented at the 15th annual City University of New York Black Male Initiative Conference, addressing the need for male educators of color.

I received the Leaders in Education Award from St. John’s University in 2024, the finalist award for the Flag Award for Teaching Excellence in 2023, the finalist award for the Greg Ferrell Award by the New York City Outward Bound Schools network in 2021, and the Professional of the Year award by the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations in 2021.

I published my first children’s book, Soy Bella, a story celebrating the diversity and culture of Latinos. It’s my hope to diversify literature for youths. In the summer of 2024, I will release my second children’s book, Little Dreamer.

My Instagram @RestoringRacialJustice, is a platform where I talk about my work in engaging students of color through equity and restorative justice.

How has a degree from The School of Education impacted your career path?

My educational approach has been shaped by my thesis, conducted under the guidance of Margot Ely, Ph.D. During this time, I did a qualitative study on the experience of a Latino teacher in the New York City public school system with a highly diverse population. I explored the experiences of interacting with students of different racial backgrounds and the impact I hoped to have on my students. I observed my commitment in supporting students of color, specifically those labeled as troubled in our system. This thesis and work that began early in my educational career continues to serve my educational philosophy and approach in creating equitable classroom spaces.

Were there any professors in The School of Education who influenced your life? 

I credit Mark and Helen Levy, and Margot Ely, Ph.D., for their compassion and commitment to support educators entering the field. I can honestly say they significantly impacted my approach when dealing with students. As a young teacher in 2015–16, having them as mentors and professors who could guide my practice was invaluable. They played an important role in shaping me into the educator I am today. My thoughts and ideas were pushed and further developed, and today much of the work I engage in is a testimony to the work these professors invested in me and my classmates.

What are your most cherished memories from your days as a student in The School of Education?

There’s a specific memory that stands out because a fellow student took a picture of the moment. Dr. Ely was discussing my thesis with me, emphasizing the importance of racial equity. She highlighted how critical my views and perspective as a male person of color are in education. Additionally, she also mentioned the potential for this thesis to serve as the foundation of a doctorate degree—a path which I hope to pursue in the near future. It’s a memory that I hold close to my heart because she is a professor who truly believes in my vision.

What wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of alumni? 

As teachers, we plant seeds that we may never see grow. However, our impact on students will always be remembered. We see a vision for our students before they may even recognize it in themselves. Always empower them to strive for the best version of themselves.

As educators, I urge teachers to continue challenging systems that fall short for our children. Create spaces that nurture and use creativity as a tool to engage their learning. Approach this career with compassion and patience, always extending yourself grace, because the service we provide our students is unmeasurable.