In order to understand others, we must first understand ourselves, and to that end I have been reflecting on my own personal history and education. I was born and raised in the Bronx in New York, where I always had a passion for working with children. My education and career path was not a straight one, but it was always focused on this goal. My parents like many immigrants, made sacrifices to come to the United States from Ecuador in their early 20s. Despite financial difficulties and low wages they learned English and were even able to provide me with a private education in the Catholic school system. My mother worked as a seamstress and my father as a livery cab driver. My father worked during the day, and attended English classes in the evening. This was followed by community college where he worked to obtain an Associate’s degree in Computer Science. Despite my father’s determination to get an education and better provide for his family, he did not have the supports and confidence to translate this achievement into a new career, and he remained in his livery cab driver position.
My early life and education was a happy one which took place in a diverse setting. I was able to interact with children from many backgrounds. I began attending a private Catholic school in the 1st grade, where a great group of teachers supported me to bring out the best in myself and to achieve my greatest potential.
I was a straight A student, and I had few difficulties in school or with schoolwork until I encountered a problem relationship with my mathematics teacher in the 7th and 8th grade, Sister Thomas. Sister Thomas had been teaching at my school for more than 20 years, but she left me feeling picked on and singled out. For example, if I answered a question incorrectly she would make a spectacle of it, leaving me uncomfortable and questioning my capacity and worth. There were times when I made myself sick to my stomach, just so I did not have to go to that class. I learned an important lesson during this time about the importance of relationships, and the great impact they can have on one’s development. It is not surprising that my grades began to drop and I became depressed. My parents were able to talk to the administration and to Sister Thomas with positive results, and I was able to continue my progress with less stress. Still, this time had a great impact on me and on my understanding of the power of a teacher in the classroom to support or hold back their students. It was already clear to me that if I ever became a teacher, in my classroom every student would matter and be included. I wanted to treat all my students equally, and with the respect they needed to build the confidence to grow and learn.
My high school years taught me a lot about myself and my abilities. Supported by my music and arts teacher I learned that I had a powerful voice. I gained the confidence to break out of my shell and to sing and captivate an audience. I learned that as a young Latina from the Bronx in a male dominated world there was nothing to keep me from setting and achieving the goals that I had set for myself.
I did not take a direct path to a teaching career. In fact, after high school I studied at Pace University to become a nurse, with a partial scholarship. It was my plan to specialize in Pediatrics or Neonatal Nursing, but it was Dietetics, Food and Nutrition which captured my attention. I had been an overweight child, and working with children with weight issues was a good fit for me. It was both fun and rewarding to educate and coach children and adults with regard to nutrition and healthy lifestyles, and I found my niche giving workshops which facilitated change. I found that I had much strength in this area after taking on this teaching position. It gave me joy to develop lesson plans and create a variety of visuals to help my students understand the importance of eating healthy. For a time I had found my niche in working with youth.
It was in the summer of 2015 that I realized I wanted a change. While I enjoyed nursing, it was the educational aspect of my position which had shown me an area where I could flourish and support the next generation at the same time. An online advertisement about a NYC Teacher/Assistant and Teacher Job Fair in Manhattan became a turning point. It was at this job fair that I learned about a program that would start me on a new education path and career. I embarked on an intensive 15 month graduate level program to qualify as an elementary school teacher. This teaching residency program was leading to a position working with children from diverse backgrounds in the East Harlem community.
I immediately fell in love with my new position, working alongside a great Lead Teacher with my group of 2nd graders. As a teaching resident, I am proud to be part of an organization that is a partnership with diverse, low-income families in the East Harlem community. I am taking pride in my contribution to empower and educate our scholars to become our future leaders for a better tomorrow.