Dorenyse Díaz knew from a young age that she wanted to be an educator. She grew up admiring her grandmother, a strong Nicaraguan school leader who served as a principal at the local community school in a small town in Nicaragua and her Tía Miriam, a fearless teacher who went as far as smuggling her students to Honduras to protect them when she served as a teacher during a time of war. Inspired by her elders and their love and passion for education, Dorenyse learned early on that working with children would not entail a “7-3 type of commitment” and would instead require her to be a partner to students and families by being an active member of the community she served in the way that both her grandmother and Tía Miriam had. These two women have served as motivation for much of Dorenyse’s career as they influenced her to be equally fearless and an advocate for students.
Dorenyse is a proud South East Angelena who embraces her roots and has committed herself to creating safe spaces for women and children. It was during her fifth year at Azusa Pacific University that she first immersed herself into the field of education by living abroad in Nicaragua. It was through a non-profit organization that she was able to experience teaching kinder and first grade at an alternative educational agency that served children of parents who were sex workers in a remote town in Nicaragua. It was through this experience that she saw first-hand how society created stigmas for children who were from nontraditional households. In coming back home to graduate with a double major in Spanish and in global studies, she sought a pathway that would lead her back to the classroom.
Dorenyse joined Teach For America in 2010 along with five of her close friends and relocated to Miami, Florida, where she was placed at Miami Central High School, serving 9th and 10th grade students. Here, Dorenyse taught reading and found herself in a space that provided her insight into the trauma created through consistent negative messaging. She said “students were falling under the cracks because they lacked literacy skills…they were disengaged but not by choice.” With this insight, she developed a curriculum and opportunities for her students to have access to literature all while teaching them to own their narrative and embrace their uniqueness.
After two years of serving her “Miami children,” Dorenyse had to move back home as her mom fell ill and needed the support. Back in Los Angeles, Dorenyse joined the Teach For America staff. As a staff member, she contributed by serving as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development and Director of Pre-Corps Development. While TFA offered her with tremendous professional development opportunities and a space for continuous learning and personal growth, her passion and commitment to children led her back to the school setting.
Dorenyse currently serves as the Assistant Principal at USC East College Prep High School. Going into her second year, Dorenyse has not only served as part of the founding leadership team of the school, but has also developed spaces for her students’ families to serve as partners. Living through the words of her mentor, Katiusca Moreno, Dorenyse is constantly working towards “earning the position of working in the community,” as she never wants to take for granted the privilege of being a woman of color who gets to serve people of color in their own communities.
Another mentor who has helped mold Dorenyse’s journey and commitment to her community has been Jamie Jenkins. Jamie taught Dorenyse to be unapologetic and to be critical of everything. Jamie also conveyed to Dorenyse that “self-love and self-care was community work in itself” as one could not make a difference in the world if she couldn’t take care of herself first.
Through the influence of her grandmother, her Tía Miriam, Katiusca Moreno, Jamie Jenkins along with many more powerful women who have inspired her in one way or another, Dorenyse has taken her commitment to empowering other women by taking leadership and co-founding SELACo, a collective consisting of “woman of color working to dismantle a lot of the misconceptions society has created for [us] and to create a safe space for women to root for each other.” SELACo is still growing but with the dedication and collaboration of the steering committee, Dorenyse hopes to see it become a network of community advocates that provides access to services to families under-resourced in the Southeast Los Angeles community.
Dorenyse claims to “not fit the stereotype of a school leader,” and firmly believes that prescriptive molds of leadership do not lead folks to true self-actualization. In using her own experiences and leading by example, Dorenyse hopes to continue working towards opening doors for those often left out. She dreams of one day opening her own secondary school in Southeast Los Angeles, that is inclusive of everyone and allows families to serve as partners in the education of the children, while allocating resources and prioritizing students with special needs.
Dorenyse is a champion for students and their families and for her commitment towards breaking molds and opening doors for women and kids of all backgrounds, we honor her as a luchadora.
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