April 8, 2022

A day in the life of a Catalyst Teacher!

By Charles Crosby


Serving as a Catalyst teacher is deeply rewarding and full of opportunities to discover your best self. This is embodied in spades by Ismael Gomez, a veteran substitute teacher who has worked with kids at Catalyst for 14 years. 

A “typical day” for Gomez sees a lot of variables as a sub. But there are lots of consistencies too. “Every day I go into any of our centers, children give me the opportunity to learn how they learn,” he says. “I’ll share my expertise so they can develop the skills to take it even further.”  

He points out that there is no one model to how a day can unroll, especially as on a given day, he may work with either preschoolers or school-age kids but points out some commonalities. He may have to scale the level of instruction and engagement, but it all comes back to how to engage them, to encourage fun and play, and focus on what interests them. “It’s all about then, not me,’ he points out. 

One thing that Gomez is well known for in all the centers he has worked in is his musicianship. Often pictured with a guitar in hand, he believes music is a major leveler in reaching, teaching, and inspiring kids. “Music is just another medium for me to share with the children that you can do anything you want to,” he says. “You want to expose them to music because it’s not just about the sound, music involves writing, it involves reading, it involves mathematical concepts, so I bring it to the children and see how they react to it. I let them play the guitar – preschoolers or school age, both – and I go over the strings, point out the middle note, things like that, and they get an idea of how it all works.” He doesn’t use toy instruments but exposes the kids to real guitars. “They’re always enthusiastic about using an adult instrument and seeing the difference from toys.” 

His favorite part of the “typical day” as a Catalyst teacher is helping kids learn to solve problems and challenges. “Children ask me to help them, and we’ll think about (the challenge) and I’ll help them figure out the solution themselves,” he says. “If they can’t figure it out, I’m going to help them get there, or at least get them going. Though they are young they can learn to solve their own problems and address their own issues. It’s a lot of fun and it’s challenging at the same time.  

Even after so many years in the trenches, he still finds his work as a teacher rewarding every day. He points out, “Every day I get up in the morning thinking, ‘okay, this is another day for me to learn.’ (The children) are teaching me too. They’re showing me how they learn and I try to expand on that. I know each child has a different style of learning and I like working within that.”   

Gomez has deeply valued his time with Catalyst and having the opportunity to teach and learn from so many children in our care. “Catalyst is a great company to work with,” he says. “You have a lot of excellent teachers around you – a lot of enthusiastic and competent teachers! – and it’s a great environment for learning.” 

It’s teachers like Ismael Gomez that make Catalyst an unmatched experience for children from the many communities the organization serves. While there’s no one “typical day” for a teacher like him, every one of them is filled with play, learning (in both directions), and a rewarding experience that makes every day unique and deeply fulfilling.