Rachel Morgado: Creating the Next Generation of Educators

Growing up as the child of a teacher, Rachel Morgado heard from her classmates how much they loved her mom, an educator at St. Dominic School. It was during her most crucial developmental years that her heart was warmed by the positive impact that teachers can have on their students. 

Morgado is now a teacher at Benicia High School—her alma mater—channeling that inspiration into her students.

Though she typically teaches English Language Arts to ninth graders, Morgado has taken on a new elective in the Career Technical Education (CTE) program. Previously known as Teaching Career Paths, Careers in Education will expose Juniors and Seniors to education careers, even those that aren’t teaching in the classroom. 

Some students may graduate from Careers in Education inspired to become a teacher like Morgado, but others could walk away ready to write curriculum or advocate for teachers and students in the political arena. With thorough coverage on relevant debates, events, and court decisions, each of Morgado’s students are being empowered to make waves.

“It’s my hope that each student that enters my classroom leaves with a new understanding of the many career options in education, but, more importantly, my goal is to teach them skills that will be useful in any field,” she says. “This course is about giving the kids the tools that they need to feel ready to take on the world.”

Students take on weekly presentations and group projects to mimic real life collaboration.

One of these recent presentations was a lesson plan. The students were assigned to write a short lesson plan on a topic of their choosing and perform it towards their peers. Morgado shared with me that one group taught the class how to make friendship bracelets, and even brought in the colorful strings to create them. The presenting group gave Morgado a chance to pick out the colors for her bracelet ahead of time, making sure she got all her favorites. 

As she recounted this story, Morgado smiled; the pride she has in her students is palpable. The students taking this course must feel it, too, because they continue to show their dedication and enthusiasm for their coursework. 

Part of this enthusiasm is due to the possibility of college credit.

As a CTE course, the students are actively preparing for the future. Diablo Valley College offers a similar course and Morgado is in the process of getting her curriculum reviewed for articulation. If she succeeds, her students who pass the final exam will receive credit towards their college transcripts. 

With this class Morgado’s students are being given the chance to catapult into adulthood. By getting a head start on their college credits and skill development, they’re already a couple steps ahead of their peers. Yet the career-exploration aspect of the course is perhaps the most important of all. 

So many teens go off to college not knowing what to major in, not to mention which career to pursue. By giving high school students the access to hands-on experience in potential career paths, Morgado is preparing her students for that kind of decision making. “Even if they rule out education, I will still have helped them come closer to understanding what kind of life they want to build,” she says. 

But when I asked her what she gets out of the course, Morgado had to take a moment to think.

“I love to be involved in the community,” she stated. As a BHS alumni and a former employee of the City of Benicia, Morgado loves Benicia and its people. “It’s fulfilling for me to be so entangled in the community that was positively impacted by my mom’s influence as a teacher and continue that work.” 

She went on to tell me that she also finds the course to be a great source of self-reflection and improvement, “I’m teaching the kids how to do what I do, so now I feel hyper-aware of what I could be doing differently or better.”

Morgado keeps an open dialogue with her students. In teaching her students the history, ethics, and best practices of education, she has opened herself up to criticism. But, she anticipates this feedback and even welcomes it. 

“By telling me their honest opinion of how the course is going, I can only improve. I can only become a better teacher and a better influence in their lives. In critiquing both me and the course, the students are practicing self-advocacy and creating a more impactful learning environment for themselves,” she says. 

When asked about her vision for the future of the course, Morgado’s eyes lit up.

As it is just the first year of this course being back in BHS’s catalog, she is somewhat limited with the opportunities she can drum up for the students. Soon, with enough students enrolled in the course, the school will offer parts I and II of the course with differing levels of hands-on experience. 

Short-term, the course will include classroom observations at all four elementary schools in the Benicia Unified School District later this school year. Morgado hopes that it won’t be too long before Careers in Education II, the second year of the course, is up and running with in-classroom Teaching Assistant opportunities for Seniors where they can practice teaching real lessons to real students. 

Building this course back up from the ground sounds challenging, but Morgado is ready for it. Inspired by her own mother, Morgado is passing on her love of teaching into the hearts of many. From highschoolers down to the students at the elementary schools in town, soon nearly every child in Benicia will feel the effects of this educator’s work.