Photo Credit: Garfield Elementary

Grow Here: Sonia Galaviz Opening The Door For Opportunity

Sonia Galaviz never planned on being a teacher. Her sights were set on becoming a lobbyist from the time she began high school in Northern Idaho up until the middle of her college career at Boise State University. Everything changed when she began volunteering at a family literacy program for migrant workers in Caldwell. Witnessing the power reading and writing had in that community, Sonia knew from then on that she was meant to teach.

Sonia teaches fifth-grade at Garfield Elementary – one of the oldest schools in Boise School District that now exemplifies the bright future within the Boise Valley. Although there are 18 languages spoken under Garfield’s roof, one is universal – the language of opportunity. Garfield is the only Title I school in the Timberline Quadrant with 90 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch and 36 percent of students with ethnic minority background. Kindergarten through sixth grade students hail from refugee housing, East Boise suburbs and a family homeless shelter, a community of students that bring unmatchable tenacity of spirit to Garfield.

Her school year begins weeks before the first bell rings, meeting the parents and family members of 30 plus students that will spend the upcoming school year in her classroom. Sonia recognizes parents as the first and most important teachers in her students’ lives and meets with each family to form a relationship and talk about how they can work together in and outside of school walls to help each child succeed.

The first of her family to earn a college education, Sonia continues to honor her parents and draw inspiration from them in all that she does. Her parents demonstrated a solid foundation of hard work and service that Sonia deeply values now that she is older. Her father was a migrant farm worker and is still to this day one of the smartest people she knows. She can see in hindsight the only thing that kept her father from continuing a formal education was opportunity. Sonia is determined to change that for her students.

One way opportunity occurs is through community involvement. When learning about bridges, Sonia will call Idaho Transportation Department and ask to have someone speak to her class about the work being done on a current bridge, or phone SUEZ Water and ask someone to come speak to students about water use in Boise. This intersection between school, family and community is what Sonia hopes to see grow in the Boise Valley. Not only do interactions like this foster a learning opportunity – they spark aspiration for young students. When a company agrees to come speak, Sonia asks if they can send individuals reflective of her students – women, refugees, people of color – people who have had a similar journey to the fifth graders at Garfield Elementary.

To say Sonia is a dynamic teacher is an understatement. She is always thinking of new ways to engage her students in learning and is always thinking of who could be missing from this conversation that would enhance the education experience. Sonia is kind, resilient and impassioned –  she embodies everything you could hope for in a teacher, community member, a daughter and a mother. She loves her students as much as she pushes them, and there is no doubt that she is helping shape the bright, tenacious, spirited students to lead us tomorrow. 

Sonia will be speaking at the Boise Valley Economic Partnership's "Grow. Here." Economic Summit on May 31st. Click here to learn more.