Michael Solitaria ’17 | University of Portland

Michael Solitaria ’17

Fourth Grade Teacher at Grout Elementary School

Major: Elementary Education

michael1-resized.jpg“Growing up, I didn’t have one teacher who looked like me, nor did teachers put books in my hands with characters who resembled me. I decided to become a teacher so that I could be that representation, foster the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and other marginalized students, and make sure they know that they matter and deserve to be heard.

I’m now a fourth-grade classroom teacher at Grout Elementary in Portland Public School District. I also lead the Black Student Union and the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union, where we nurture positive feelings of identity. I did not have the opportunity to join an ethnic affinity space until college, and I did not want the youth I work with to wait that long.

I chose UP because I felt I could build a community there, it was in a city I wanted to explore, and I wanted to discover what my Catholic faith meant to me outside of my family. Psychology of Education was my favorite class. Viewing the practice of education through the lens of psychology was groundbreaking.

I wasn’t ready to have my own classroom when I graduated because I wanted to explore other aspirations while working as a substitute teacher. In 2019, I was ready to apply for a fourth-grade classroom teaching position. I networked with the connections I made through my student teaching practicum while at UP, and I believe that was a major factor in my hiring.”

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