The fifth-graders in Michael Diaz-Rivera’s classroom are anxious for summer. The boys in the front fidget under rows of fluorescent lights, and a few students have their heads on their desks. But everyone perks up when the 31-year-old teacher clears his throat and begins class. “As you can see, today is May 16, 2017,” he says in a voice that’s as crisp as his button-down shirt.
Diaz-Rivera is wrapping up his first year teaching language arts and literacy at Columbine Elementary School, located in the Skyland neighborhood north of City Park. On this day — like most days — Diaz-Rivera is dressed to impress. “I try to dress professionally to combat against the stereotypes my students have learned about minorities and professionalism,” he explains.