Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Teacher by Day, Capoeriristia by Night

Posted 03/22/2021 by Tess Ware

Mateo Rocha poses at the bottom of a pool while he enjoys one of his many hobbies, skateboarding. photo by Jaqueline R

There is a new ELA-S teacher in the TJ community. 

Thomas Jefferson High School’s newest addition is more than just a teacher; he is a high-kicking, poetry-writing, puppy-loving force of nature! Mateo Rocha was born in Columbia and raised in southeast Denver, Colorado. He still lives in the same city that he grew up in and went to Thomas Jefferson High School as well. Rocha loves to travel, skateboard, camp, jump in cold rivers, hang out with his family, dance, eat with friends, and play with his puppy. He loves to practice Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, and experiment with poetry. 

Rocha’s educational background is diverse, reflecting his desire to appreciate a variety of cultures. He attended Denver School of the Arts for visual arts and then transferred to Hamilton Middle School before becoming a Spartan at TJ, where he joined the Center for Communication Technology Magnet program and pursued the journalism pathway. After high school, Rocha attended the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had no idea what he wanted to study, but as he began his first semester at UNM, he became interested in linguistics and topics of bilingualism. Rocha stated, “I had a personal struggle of feeling like I was ‘losing my español’ in the U.S., and the opportunity to study languages and the science of languages took a hold of me.” Rocha ended up double majoring in Linguistics and Latin American Studies and began a Master’s in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Linguistics. Some achievements that Rocha is proud to share are him becoming a teacher, learning his native language more, and acquiring a third language. 

After leaving UNM, a dream job for Rocha was learning a new language while completing language documentation with a team of educators, leaders, artists, students, and their families. This job for Rocha has now become a goal and something he is still very interested in pursuing. Rocha has an extensive occupation history that has shaped the person he is today. Since leaving UNM, he has been a language servicer, interpreting and translating Spanish and Portuguese in the Denver Metro Area. Before this, he was a Spanish language teacher, a high school mentor, a reporter, a soccer referee, and an information technology support specialist; he even worked in construction, and worked on a farm building chicken coops while planting and harvesting. While he was at TJ, he worked at a greenhouse in Denver called the Country Fair Garden Center. “My most exciting job, though, is one that I have done part-time for the last couple years, teaching the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira,” Rocha explained. “Finding something you are passionate about is very important in life. I am proud to be a capoeirista and grateful to have found Capoeira and to share it with my community.” Some work goals Rocha still wants to achieve are developing into a full time ELD and Language Arts teacher, getting a teacher’s license while working at TJ, and learning more hands-on what it takes to balance his students’ multiple languages and cultures.

TJ had a position for Rocha that was perfect for his plan on getting his alternative teaching license. Rocha is an ELA-S teacher in the TJ community; he serves students who speak more than one language. Students that speak another language and are having trouble understanding English, or perhaps have difficulty with the language on assignments or class topics, meet with Rocha and the Multilingual Education team for support. “I hope my role serves to bring students’ and families’ needs to the forefront, that you are not alone and we want to support and connect with you,” Rocha explained. This is very important especially during a pandemic, where he hopes his role will develop a strong bridge towards guidance so no one is left out. Rocha is very grateful and inspired to be part of the community that helped him grow up, and he is so grateful for the opportunity to give back. Opportunities presented themselves and all that was left was taking the courage to open the door. “Once a TJ Spartan, always a TJ Spartan,” Rocha stated proudly.

Rocha is a great fit for the TJ community and will continue to bring a lot to the table. He has worked incredibly hard his entire life to make himself and his family proud as an immigrant. He has accomplished so much in life, and those achievements will continue to grow. Welcome to the TJ community, Mr. Rocha!