Social studies teacher Reina Cruz is a staunch advocate for student voices at Northfield High School (NHS) in Denver, Colorado. Cruz leads the school's Student Voice and Leadership class, which is focused on elevating diverse student perspectives and advises the Student Board of Education and other student-led initiatives. As a result, NHS seeks out and encourages student contributions during administrative processes like interviewing new teachers. As the equity senior team lead, Cruz is working to ensure that the school’s curriculum includes a wide range of perspectives and sources. She aspires to lead system-level change, and her approach to equity begins with listening and learning.
Cruz meets students on their level and propels them to heights they may have thought impossible. Her classroom is a safe space where students feel comfortable taking intellectual risks. Cruz goes above and beyond to differentiate her instruction, recognizing the importance of data to help students track their learning goals while facilitating discussion and debate. In the two-year International Baccalaureate Psychology course she took over at NHS in 2020, Cruz connects students to the content they’re learning, bringing outside experts like Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo into class via Zoom to talk about his famous Stanford Prison Experiment and career paths in psychology. During the pandemic, she helped educators create a rich learning environment using videos and live online collaboration via Google Meet. She was an EdTech District Champion, leading NHS’ remote learning team and implementing practices schoolwide to maintain student engagement.
Cruz is known as a strong role model, particularly for Latina students. Cruz has also taught for USD 475 (Junction City, KS) and CCSD (Las Vegas, NV). These courses included World History, US History, Psychology, AP Psychology, Government and AP Government . The highlight of those experiences was getting students participation in We The People and Project citizne to provide teens with the opportunity to become actively engaged citizens. Cruz holds a special passion for supporting first-generation students in their efforts to become the first in their families to go to college, celebrating students’ college acceptances and scholarships with joyful posts on Twitter.
Cruz earned a bachelor’s in secondary education in 2012 from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2015 from Kansas State University.
Press release: Amplifying Student Voice Garners $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Denver Teacher Reina Cruz
"When I see my students achieve, I feel a strong sense of humbleness that I got to be a part of their learning process. I hope that I..." (read more)