Please give a brief background on yourself and your career.
I emigrated with my family from Mexico to Moses Lake, Washington when I was three years old. Growing up, my parents emphasized the importance of education. As a child, I always wanted to learn more about different cultures and languages. I remember pointing to different countries around a globe my dad had and asking him things like “What’s Brazil like?” or “How cold is Russia?” I always wanted to know how people in other countries lived.
While at Wellesley, I immediately gravitated toward learning French. After studying abroad in France, I took Italian and Spanish courses. I never knew exactly what I would do with all of these languages, but I always felt like I belonged most in the language classrooms. I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to use different languages and build upon my skills. In addition, I majored in Women’s and Gender Studies and graduated in 2012.
From 2012-2013, I joined City Year and tutored Math and ESL students at Burbank High School in San Antonio, Texas. This was an incredibly tough year for me as it opened my eyes to the ways in which inner-city public schools lack the resources to academically and emotionally support their students.
Once my City Year term ended, I returned to Boston to work as an Associate Math and Science Teacher at Brooke Charter School in Roxbury. Working at Brooke equipped me with valuable classroom management skills and student relationship-building strategies that I will use for the rest of my life.
In August 2014, I began my 27-month commitment to Peace Corps Nicaragua as a TEFL Teacher Trainer and Secondary Teacher. I co-plan and co-teach English lessons with three Nicaraguan counterparts, give English classes to teachers, and I have led training workshops for Peace Corps volunteers and staff. The latest workshop I facilitated was an lgbtq staff training, which has promoted staff awareness about using lgbtq-inclusive language to welcome and support all volunteers, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Check out my blog to learn more about my Peace Corps experience.
How has your career changed since you originally envisioned it at Wellesley? What other careers did you consider as a student?
In high school, I thought that I would be a history teacher, because history was my strongest subject. At Wellesley, I immediately realized that you shouldn’t just do something you are good at. You should do something that you’re passionate about. Being at Wellesley made me realize the importance of education as a tool for social mobility, so I remained open to the idea of working in education. I never had a specific plan, though. I still don’t. Sometimes I think about working in the travel or tourism industry, but I’m not sure if I would feel as accomplished as I do while teaching and helping others learn. I’ve travel blogged in the past, and since arriving to Nicaragua, I’ve blogged about my time here. I’ve realized that aside from being a teacher, I would like to be a travel writer once the opportunity comes up.
How has Wellesley contributed to your career?
Wellesley equipped me with the confidence to walk into a room with a purpose. Thanks to Wellesley, I always sit in front at meetings and am not afraid to participate. Wellesley also taught me to think about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which men and women are treated differently in the workplace. For example, I’ve heard of people telling women to “smile” at work because they’re not peppy enough. In a situation like this, I ask myself: “Would they ask a man that?” Wellesley taught me to challenge social interactions that reinforce gender stereotypes.
What is a typical work day or work week like for you?
There is no typical day or week here, but I’ll talk about what I’ve been up to recently. Last week, I spent every morning translating for a medical brigade from Wisconsin that came to Nicaragua to give free eye exams, eyeglasses, and sunglasses to the people in my city. I met a lot of different people and learned how to fit and adjust glasses. I’ve learned how to do a lot of things that I didn’t think I would learn how to do in the Peace Corps.
In the afternoons, I co-teach high school classes which range from having about 20-50 students each. I have 150+ students, so learning their names has been a challenge. Doing student “mugshots” has helped a lot to learn their names. Since there are no online student databases, my students have written their names in their notebooks and I’ve taken their photos. Simple things like a student database with students’ pictures are just one of the things I took for granted as a teacher in the States.
I spent time doing Insanity workouts, running, and cooking Nica foods like beans, rice, and plantains, as well as Mexican food. The food is simple but it tastes great because it’s locally produced.
What piece of advice would you offer students looking to get into your area of interest and expertise?
Working at Brooke Charter School taught me that no matter how good you are at teaching, you can always improve. It’s so important to go into any field asking “What can I learn from this experience?” Working as a teacher can be incredibly defeating yet rewarding, so that’s why it’s so important to have this mentality. I enjoyed working at Brooke because my colleagues never thought “It can’t be done”. They just asked “What can I do about this?” I’ll never forget sitting in meetings with amazing teachers who wanted to get better at teaching every day.
What do you wish you had known as a student?
I wish I could have told myself as a senior to not worry so much about finding a job right out of college. As soon as I wasn’t accepted into Teach for America, I accepted my next back up because I was afraid of telling people that I didn’t know what I would be doing right after Wellesley. I wished I’d just taken my time to network and to explore opportunities more as a senior, rather than committing to the first job that was offered to me a month after classes began.
If you could come back and take one class at Wellesley what would it be?
I would love to take “Gender and Development” again because my perspectives on both gender and development have changed so much in the 6 months that I’ve worked in the Peace Corps. I would also love to take Portuguese, which was offered after I graduated!