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2017-18 Teacher of the Year: LaRavian Battle

LaRavian Battle
Electronic Learning Program
Sojourner Truth ISP/ELP


LaRavian Battle LaRavian Battle has a unique perspective on math, her subject of expertise at Sojourner Truth Independent Study where she has taught for the past six years.


Her students in the Electronic Learning Program (ELP) rave about her ability to make the notoriously difficult subject seem easy. That understanding and support of her students for the past 20 years has led LaRavian to be named a 2017-18 OUSD Teacher of the Year.


“I am completely humbled by this award, it means a lot. I would do it no matter what, but it’s nice to know that somebody realizes I’m really giving it my all,” LaRavian said. “When I shared the news on Facebook, all these students I’ve had over the years came out to say ‘thank you’ and pour all this love my way. I love them back, and I tell them that. It really does come back to you.”  


From her hometown in Berkeley, LaRavian’s path to teaching in Oakland went abroad before it came back to the Bay. She graduated from Cal State Hayward with a degree in Math and went to visit friends of mine who were teaching English in Mexico for three years.


“I worked in was an immersion school and a lot of my communication was non-verbal at first,” she said. “I learned a lot about visual cues, gestures and universal language that we just know naturally. It was a wonderful experience.” She also became fluent in Spanish and uses it everyday to communicate with families.


“Algebra is a language that most kids don’t feel comfortable with until they can connect to it” she said, “Trying to figure out how to put math in a context that students already have some experience in which is how you teach a language. I use a lot of non-verbal skills.”


LaRavian is now Lead Teacher for the ELP and enjoying broader influence while staying active in the classroom. She focuses on supporting other teachers by “fine-tuning the program, analyzing and helping us move smoothly from year to year.


I’ve been able to put my stamp on some things that have made ELP better and I feel good about it,” she said. “That’s surprised me - I didn’t know I’d want to do something school-wide, but I’m feeling comfortable in it.”


LaRavian’s skill for tutoring students in math as well as other subjects is an invaluable resource at Sojourner Truth. The school’s program is online and on-site only when students need help. Sojourner Truth uses an individualized blending learning curriculum to provide student with support as they complete academic programs at their own pace.


“Our students have to seek, and that’s a big part of what we teach: how to advocate for yourself, how to find resources in a textbook, what are the key terms to look up. When they come for a review with a teacher we look over their notes, but they have to be prepared. This program allows us to really get to know students and families and help them develop the skills to be self-directed.”


LaRavian finds inspiration in her students. After two decades of teaching, she has acquired wisdom that all educators can appreciate.


“I never taught anywhere else but I suspect Oakland students are the most resilient. The kids say you have to ‘keep your neck on swivel’, even if you’re minding your own business. They learn how to persevere because of the environment, especially here in East Oakland.


“One thing I always say is we need to take the Hippocratic Oath like doctors, which is ‘first, do no harm’. If I can’t help you, I’m certainly not going to hurt you, and yet a lot of our students have been hurt by their experience in school," she said. “If people in the system can remember that, I think a lot of kids will be able to find solutions to what they’re dealing with and avoid falling through the cracks.”