The Face of the L.A. Teachers Strike Is This Boyle Heights Native and Instructor of History and Ethnic Studies

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Roxana Duenas, a Boyle Heights teacher of history and ethnic studies, stands before an image of her face that's been widely circulated across "Stand with LA Teachers" posters during the strike in January 2019. (Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Roxana Duenas, a Boyle Heights teacher of history and ethnic studies, stands before an image of her face that’s been widely circulated across “Stand with LA Teachers” posters during the strike in January 2019. (Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

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Roxana Dueñas is the face of the Los Angeles teachers’ strike. Her image is plastered on billboards, classroom walls and the United Teachers Los Angeles website. It graced a full-page advertisement published earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times, which sometimes shows up on the paper’s website.

The history and ethnic studies teacher is pictured head-on, her face framed by large glasses, her dark hair parted to one side. She looks confident, determined. She tells people to “Stand with L.A. teachers.”

The poster of Dueñas, 34, who teaches at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, is one of several commissioned by UTLA and done by local artists last month. With the strike entering its fourth day, Dueñas has embraced her role as one of its most visible symbols, while she joins her colleagues on the picket line.

“When you see it you think, ‘Wow, this is important work,’” she said of the poster. “A lot of teachers’ work is done behind closed doors — it’s not a public performance. It feels nice to be seen.”

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Roxana Dueñas is a history teacher at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights — the same community that she grew up in. In the last seven years, Roxana has taught AP US History, Government and Economics and Cultural Geography. Through an inquiry-based and student-centered approach, she enjoys bringing history to life—making it relevant and hands-on. This year, she has the unique opportunity to teach and co-create the curriculum for an ethnic studies course titled “Boyle Heights and Me” with an emphasis on community history, student activism and civic and artistic engagement. In addition to her teaching experience, Roxana has co-written a grant for UCLA’s Teacher Initiated Inquiry Project that allowed her and her colleagues to design their own professional development, participate in research and education conferences throughout the country and purchase technology for the classroom. Roxana is a two-time Gilder Lerhman Fellow. One of Roxana’s students had this to say: “This educator has opened my eyes into realizing that I could be someone in life with determination. She shows passion, dedication, patience, admiration, potential, and most importantly human spirit. Her passion to see her students become world leaders makes us comprehend and connect with some of the experiences she has lived. Many students in the first 2-3 months of school payed no attention to her because they saw her as really young and unable to handle anything. She then took the courage to question her class about the day by day oppression they faced in their communities and what they wanted to do about it. She knew that we have potential and determination to become guiders for our community.” A study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association reveals, 92% of teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies, while 85% buy instructional materials for their students. Teachers like Roxana invest countless hours and energy in both in the classroom teaching and outside the classroom curriculum and activities. @launitedway is proud to honor Roxana Dueñas as a 2015 Inspirational Teacher. Tag your inspirational teacher and tell us why they inspire you. #TeachersWhoInspire

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