Biology Teacher Joe Camacho (’15) Witnesses the Power of Representation to Inspire Student Success

Biology Teacher Joe Camacho (’15) Witnesses the Power of Representation to Inspire Student Success

Author: Kristine Jimenez


“I‘ve been on a path to become a teacher ever since I was in high school, when I saw the impact one teacher could have on me,” says Joe Camacho, an IslandWood Graduate Program alum who completed his Master’s in Teaching with our partner, the University of Washington, in 2017. Joe is now a biology teacher at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, WA.


By his own admission, Joe was not a great student in his youth and he credits a few inspirational teachers with getting him through school. One of those was his high school calculus teacher, Angelo Villavicencio, a former colleague and mentee of Jaime Escalante (of which the movie Stand and Deliver is based). “Mr. V”, as Joe calls him, had a huge sign at the front of the classroom that said “Ganas: The desire to succeed.”


“Jaime Escalante taught Mr. V, and Mr. V taught me this idea that everyone has within them this desire to succeed—this has been ingrained in me,” explains Joe, who intentionally chose to work at a diverse school, where seeing a Latino science teacher and role model could have a positive impact on students.


Joe credits IslandWood with helping him develop his teaching philosophy, “I was able to teach kids from all over the place and that pushed me to diversify my teaching to meet the needs of every single student.”


Joe is also a mentor in the community. Through his involvement in Latino Outdoors, Environmental Professionals of Color, and the Hispanic Access Foundation, he is actively engaged in getting more people of color outdoors and connected with nature. While at the University of Washington, he was president of the chapter of Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), where he organized science outreach nights to make science more accessible to Latinx kids.


Applying his environmental education background into a classroom setting is second nature for Joe; “I can put an environmental education spin on everything I teach; because everything is connected to nature.”

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