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Meet Lizette Valles of Compass Educators: A Holistic Tutoring Company in San Gabriel Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lizette Valles.

Lizette, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have a bookmark that reads “Teacher — Instructor, Role Model, Coach, Mentor, and Friend”, and I am honored to be experiencing and playing these caring and encouraging roles in the lives of my students. Being a part of the educational profession has been one of the most rewarding and profoundly meaningful aspects of my life because I not only seek to understand and help students academically but see and listen to them as whole and intricately complex individuals that I have the privilege of serving. My journey as an educator is as diverse and wonderful as my students. I was raised by my hardworking, Hispanic mother and one of her dreams for me was to be the first in my family to graduate from college. She sacrificed to send me to a local private school, bought me workbooks to complete over the summer, and cried with me when I came to the end of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. She watered the seeds of my own dream of becoming a teacher beginning at the ripe age of five! For my Kindergarten Career Day, she meticulously helped me with my “teacher outfit” and lovingly added the final accessory: a small chalkboard with a handle for me to carry that read “A B C”. I could not have been more ecstatic and added a bright feather boa as my own last touch to the outfit! I began my beautiful adventure that day and teachers have recognized and solidified the dream throughout the years with words of affirmation, kindness, and guidance. I am who I am because of my family and the loving educators that poured and continue to pour into my life to this very day. I would be remiss if I did not mention Sister Elizabeth (“Sister E”) of Nativity School in El Monte…

She was my 7th-grade Advanced English teacher and her ability to draw out my potential was astonishing. She was a strong, Irish nun, with no room for mediocrity. I attempted to drop her class and transfer to another English class where I could earn an “A”; however, she and my mother teamed up to prove to me that I had everything that it took to excel in her class. I worked diligently and my love of the English language grew. She focused primarily on grammar, writing, and penmanship while Sister Dorothy, our school principal, taught literature. I was instantly plunged into the world of Poe, Frost, and Anne Frank, and my entire world changed. I was making textual connections and explicitly being taught the art of empathy as I devoured book after book. I later declared my major to be English with an emphasis in literature, was hired as a middle school English teacher the same year I graduated college, earned a M.Ed., moved into high school librarianship six years later, and recently founded Compass Educators: A Holistic Tutoring Company. I have gone paintballing with my students and their families, have lovingly reassured my homesick junior highers during our week-long Science Camp up in the mountains, and comforted my high schoolers after inevitable adolescent heartbreaks. I have heard inconceivable stories of loss and tragedy and have borne witness to overwhelming grief, but I have also danced at my student’s wedding and delivered Class of 2020 signs to grateful seniors during the pandemic.

My life as an educator has been one of wonder, curiosity, inclusion, and memorable conversations. There are days, like today, when I reflect on my journey as an educator, and all I can do is smile. I smile because these past fourteen years have been more than Kindergartener me on Career Day could have ever possibly imagined. My heart must have known that the best was yet to come, and that is where the posture of my heart remains. I am here in this moment, at the beginning of an incredibly unique school year, equipped with the qualities that this multifaceted profession requires: love, fortitude, insight, resourcefulness, patience, and perseverance. I am an educator who reflects the many educators that have come before me, and I could not be more grateful for this calling. I have many students yet to meet, and I can’t wait to hand off the inspiration torch to the next generation! It’s burning bright and lovely even now, especially now. There’s lots of meaningful work that lies ahead, more conversations to be shared, and so much potential eagerly waiting to be affirmed and developed!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
“Anxiety disorder”, “panic attacks”, and “autoimmune disease” all became a part of my daily existence as a graduate student. My body had been whispering that I wasn’t taking care of it until the day it started shouting in the form of an anxiety attack. I found myself at the ER, unable to breathe and with unbearable fear that I had never felt before. I was in my third year as a teacher and was dismissing self-care because there were more important things to take care of. I pushed and pushed until my body revolted, resulting in a thyroid storm, and I would later be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. I was bedridden for about a month, only able to sip my meals through a straw because my jaw was too weak to chew. This traumatic event shifted everything. As I slowly recovered, I experienced panic attacks while driving and needed to pull over on the side of the freeway multiple times. I knew that I needed help and began therapy sessions to overcome various fears that had risen.

At the root of it was the fear of fear and physiological trauma. I’ve dealt with anxiety for the past decade and believe that it has not only been painful but also beautiful in the most unexpected ways. It led to the adoption of my son, my mental shift of intentionally listening to students’ stories and not just wanting to teach content, relying heavily on my faith to carry me through, advocating for mental health care, and delving into integrative medicine. I am far more attune to my body’s needs and understand what triggers my anxiety. My resiliency has grown exponentially due to the trials and hardships that have come my way as they are part of my story but not my whole story. My high school students can relate, and I have become a “safe place” for them because of my life experiences. This reality is not lost on me, and I believe that this makes me a better educator. I ultimately see my struggles as a catalyst for more love, understanding, and compassion that has grown from a deep well of suffering.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Compass Educators: A Holistic Tutoring Company – what should we know?
Compass Educators was birthed from the need that I saw parents having since the transition to distance learning. We stand by parents, partnering with them to equip their children with the academic and social-emotional strategies & tools to reach the balance so many of us are craving during these incredibly challenging times.

Our mission is to meet each student exactly where they are! We are a team of innovative and dedicated educators who know what it’s like to be in the classroom as well as parents who are recently homeschooling our own children or helping them with distance learning, too. We believe each student’s multiple intelligences (auditory, kinesthetic, linguistic, musical, etc.) ought to be honored and nurtured during our time together and beyond! In order to be successful in our holistic approach of addressing students’ social-emotional, physical, and academic needs, it is essential that we focus on connection. We care deeply about the wellbeing and development of each child and believe that there is always a way to reach them! Our goal is to ensure that each student feels seen and heard. Establishing clear expectations with a plan of action in a caring, encouraging manner to reach their goals is our highest priority.

Whether K-12 students are thriving during distance learning, barely hanging on, or falling behind in their academics, we empower and equip them with the tools, coping strategies, and resources to help them succeed. Online learning gives us all the opportunity to be creative in our various pedagogical approaches as we utilize interactive apps, technologies, and modalities to fit each student’s learning style. We are partnering with families both as professionals and as fellow parents who are rooting for them every step of the way!

We offer:
K-12 Tutoring
Academic Coaching
College Readiness
Specialty Courses (including empathy-focused & SPED)
Virtual Camps
Homeschooling Programs

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
“Empathy is a superpower.” – Rickey Williams

“Students will always know if you are for them!” – Mr. Woods

“You go all in or not at all!” – My husband

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell

These words have been spoken by teachers that I deeply admire, and at the core of who I am is all heart. I am a feeler, an empath, and the quality that most resonates with me as an educator is empathy. It is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, to imagine oneself in their situation, and to feel what they’re feeling. It can be a daunting experience as the emotional weight is heavy at times. I have learned throughout the years that it is not my job to “fix” anything but rather offer the gift of presence. It is essential to not only success in the entrepreneurial realm but as a human being in general. Without empathy, love, understanding, and vision, there is no chance at effecting change. I seek to invite students and their families to the table and while at the table, to listen with intentionality. Listen to their joys and pains. Listen to what motivates them. Listen to what’s on their hearts.

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