Liz Peinado, 25, was a teacher at Normandy High School in St. Louis County, Missouri, in 2014 when protests erupted in nearby Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis that became the center of a media frenzy following the police shooting of Michael Brown.
Brown was a student at Normandy High School. Peinado no longer teaches there, according to Elle, but since Brown's death, she hasn't kept silent about the historic events in Ferguson.
"Mike Brown could have easily been my student. My students are Mike Brown," Peinado, who now teaches at nearby North Campus, wrote in an essay for the magazine looking back one year after the protests. "I say these sentences over and over. It sits with me every day."
"There is a sense of urgency that I impart to all my students: We do not have time to waste," Peinado continues. "Police brutality is one branch of the issue, but there are so many systemic issues that our students face every single day. And they deserve an excellent chance at a great education and they aren't always receiving it."
Peinado argues that the country can't shy away from what have often been difficult conversations about racism and privilege. "You have to listen and be open and be OK with uncomfortable conversations," she wrote. "I think I have uncomfortable conversations all the time."
Brown's death on Aug. 9, 2014 at the hands of former police officer Darren Wilson shone a spotlight on a community whose history of racial tension between its mostly black residents and predominantly white police force had finally come to a head.
Peinado was arrested last year while protesting in the wake of Brown's death. She shared some more specific thoughts on Twitter after the city broke into protests again earlier this week.
This week, following the one-year anniversary of Brown's death on Aug. 9, 2014, protesters and activists gathered in Ferguson over the weekend. Peaceful vigils turned to unrest Sunday night when law enforcement exchanged gunfire with a protester.
Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, who was injured in the shootout, was ultimately charged with multiple counts of assault for firing at police officers.
On Monday, dozens of protesters were arrested during a demonstration in front of the federal courthouse in St. Louis.