Louie Marrone, one of the Sweetwater Districts Teachers of the Year, hopes to change the image of at-risk teenagers in San Diego County one student at a time.
Marrone is a teacher at Alta Vista Academy, a school that provides enriched education and related services to students from ages 12 to 18. The campus is located on the grounds of New Alternatives children’s residential treatment center in Chula Vista.
Marrone’s students are the most at-risk population in the district or foster care system.
After thirteen years as an educator and spending the last eleven in the Sweetwater District, Marrone’s students see him as family. “As a college student I remembered a professor saying twenty-five percent of new teachers quit due to burnout. When I heard this, I knew I had to make teaching enjoyable for not only my students, but myself as well.”
Many of his students have had numerous stops in juvenile hall and according to Marrone, basic survival skills are a top priority, causing education to be down their list of importance.
Marrone says teaching in this type of setting has had its challenges, but is also extremely rewarding. “My students come to class only after problematic behaviors elsewhere in the district have been unsuccessful,” says Marrone. “They are depending only upon themselves because many of the adults and family members in their lives have failed them.”
According to Marrone, it is not uncommon that by the time students reach his class, they have lived in 10-15 different homes and attended several different middle/high schools or facilities.
It’s clear that Marrone is a huge fan of his students. He says his passion for teaching stems from a conversation he had many years ago with his uncle who left education to run his own business and ended up regretting his decision. “He told me to choose a career that I would enjoy, but not only to do the job, but be the best I can be. That’s why I pursued teaching.”
Given the demographics at his site, Marrone finds the need to connect with his students and front load social emotional skills followed up by actual education portion, or there will be little growth accomplished.
“I try to find the students threshold and work just under that point while monitoring their ques,” said Marrone. “Many of my students have had little success in the classroom, so building student confidence is my main goal and the student accomplishments and growth follow suit.”