Hotshots: Educator Tessa Martinez Tagle [New Miami magazine]
by Hope Katz Gibbs
New Miami magazine
Photo by Donna Victor
Design by Kevin Jolliffe
This article, part of our monthly Hotshots series, received a first place Charlie Award for Best Column from The Florida Magazine Association
TESSA MARTINEZ TAGLE HAS A battle on her hands. As a vice president at Miami-Dade Community College, she is using the weapon of education to break the cycle of poverty in Dade County. Her arsenal: MDCC’s nursing and allied health programs.
Since Tagle took over the programs in 1988, she has helped increase enrollment from 5,259 in 1989 to 5,701 this year. She also is credited with helping raise the ratio of Hispanic and black students in her programs—from 63 percent to 66 percent.
“Education is he key to breaking the cycle of poverty and economic dependence on the public system,” says Tagle, 43. “If you change just one person’s educational level in a family, you change generations to come after that.”
The first person in her family to graduate from college, Tagle went on to earn a doctorate degree in educational philosophy from the University of Texas, and later became dean of a community college in San Antonio.
She attributes her drive to her mother, who died when Tagle was 2. “Even though my mother was not around, her influence on my father to make sure I had a good education pushed me,” she says. “I find myself looking for the opportunity to help other people.”
One such opportunity came when Tagle met Bill Perry, principal of COPE North, a high school program for expectant parents. “Tessa took an interest in the program and has shown the students there are good opportunities available to them,” Perry says, adding that she encouraged six COPE graduates to enroll at MOCC last fall.
“Dr. Tagle is a highly inspirational leader who has brought a new sense of enthusiasm and dedication to the campus,” says Martin Fine, chairman of the board of trustees at MDCC. “She has gone to unusual efforts to reach out to the neighboring community to serve their needs and interests.