Position: Seventh Grade World History Teacher / GATE Coordinator
School: Los Angeles Academy Middle School
School District: Los Angeles Unified School District
City, State: Los Angeles, California
About the Nominee: Martha Infante was nominated by a colleague, Jennifer Mickey. Many would describe Ms. Infante as a Life Changer for the work she has done at her school. They might cite how she has created the most prosperous Gifted Program in all of South Central L.A, or how she has helped generations of students obtain numerous educational experiences such as scholarships for attendance to private school, or to travel to China and Japan on education exchanges. They might even cite her own magic as a classroom teacher who brings Medieval World History to life and whose students eagerly rush to class to learn their next lesson.
Ms. Infante is a LifeChanger because she literally embodies what it means to change a school and a community. Los Angeles Academy Middle School would be very different had she not been a teacher there.
Through relentless and unceasing efforts, Ms. Infante has fought to change the image of what it means to be a student in South Central L.A. In a place that is often known for its gang violence, she has encouraged and succeeded in helping students from varying backgrounds find the scholar in them. She is someone who sees past the outer reflections of an environment to see the value and potential of each individual student. Students who were reluctant learners have transformed into ambitious and voracious learners due to the many programs and initiatives she started in the school, such as:
-the New Teacher Roundtable, which reduced teacher turnover -Professional Development for teachers, which placed the most able educators in front of high need students -the School for Advanced Studies, a renowned program of accelerated learning that students from all over the district seek to attend -the Student Travel Program, which takes students to domestic and international locations each summer
It would not be enough to improve her school without improving the wider community, however. Ms. Infante:
-conducts numerous parent trainings in both English and Spanish -has led electronic waste collection efforts to remove dangerous items from streets and alleys -obtained numerous grants for education projects -helped students and parents obtain citizenship -convinced runaways to come home to their parents -mentored teachers throughout the state of California and beyond
The number of individual lives she has changed are too numerous to list. There is one anecdote, however, that represents how Ms. Infante is a LifeChanger on a regular basis. There was a student whose parents were separating, which forced the mother and her children to live in a homeless shelter. The student's attendance and school performance were sporadic. As soon as she found out the cause, Ms. Infante went into commando mode and called as many contacts as she could to find a way to help the family. She was able to obtain a full scholarship so the student could attend a Cal Arts summer residential program. This relieved the mother from the stress of taking care of three children while homeless, and it gave the bright, but underachieving student a glimpse into a different world. The student is now a working artist, and the entire family found their way shortly thereafter.
There is no doubt that if Ms. Infante received a Life Changer of the Year award, she would invest any funds into continuing to improve her school, and to cement its role as a ray of hope and sunshine for many students.