Irving Junior Juggles Role as Honors Student, Teacher for Younger Siblings

On any given day of remote learning, Naomi De La Torre’s first online class doesn’t begin until 8:45 AM. 

But by the time she assumes the role of student – honors student, at that – this Irving High School junior has already served as a makeshift cafeteria worker and teacher for her younger siblings.

Her sister, Allison Martinez, is a third grader and her brother, Angel Martinez, a fourth grader, at John Haley Elementary School. 

In addition to a language barrier, their parents leave for work long before the school day begins, leaving the remote learning responsibilities in the hands of the elder sibling.

“I make sure they get into their Zoom class and that they stay focused,” De La Torre says. “Anytime they have a problem or don’t understand a question or assignment, I help them. Anytime I have a small break, I make sure to check on them.”

Her own class schedule includes a full slate of Advanced Placement (AP) classes – English, US History, Seminar, Calculus and Physics – as well as Anatomy, African-American Studies and JROTC, where she serves in a leadership role. 

The younger siblings staked out work spaces in the living room, where they log onto classes at 8 AM, 10 AM and 1 PM. De La Torre tunes into her Zoom classes from her room but sets up near them when she’s not online. 

“Their schedules don’t match with my classes,” she says. “Sometimes, I have to step away from a Zoom session for a couple of minutes to make sure they are logged into their Zooms. I’ll usually ask a friend if I missed anything, or I’ll follow-up with my teachers. Trying to make sure they are in class and that I don’t miss much of my classes is pretty stressful. I worry about them throughout the day.”

Luckily, the younger siblings, like their sister, enjoy school and learning.

“But when they wake up really groggy, like all kids do at some point, I have to make sure they are motivated and check that they are participating in class,” she says.

The experience has given her a new appreciation for teachers.

“I know how hard it is to make sure two students are learning,” she says. “But teachers are responsible for at least 20 of their students and making sure they understand. It just shows how much teachers work.”

Despite the challenge, De La Torre is grateful for the opportunity to have an impact on her younger siblings.

“It can be stressful, but it’s rewarding to know that they are learning something from you, and they will grow from the stuff that you taught them,” she says.

De La Torre has aspirations of attending either the University of Texas at Arlington or the University of California, Los Angeles and becoming a surgeon.

“I want to be a surgeon for the opportunity to help people – whether it’s removing a tumor or replacing the heart,” she says. “I would literally be able to go in and directly fix whatever is affecting a person.”

Given her track record of swooping in to make sure her younger siblings have a quality education despite the challenges that may have come with the pandemic and remote learning, we’ll say she’s well on her way. 

“When things get challenging, people either make excuses and give up or find ways to be resourceful and keep going,” says Irving High English teacher Luis Gonzalez. “Naomi definitely falls in the latter category. What’s even better is that she does it with a thoroughly positive attitude! She brings so much energy and optimism to my English class.”