Every day I woke up and fell asleep to the sound of my mother’s sewing machine. Our dining room table and bedroom floor were always covered with pieces of her work: taffeta, satin, silk and chiffon.
Never did I question my mother’s passion for her work, as she displayed harmony and pride while working on all her beautiful creations.
Nonetheless, I did wonder how she was able to work such long hours on her sewing machine while maintaining our household of four girls and a demanding husband. Was it necessity or desire?
It was not until I began providing health and educational services to underprivileged families that I understood her motivation. Like my mother, I too had found passion in my work.
This article is part of our Hispanic Heritage Month campaign to honor inspiring educators. Check out other stories like Zulma's here.
Discovering my love of science
I discovered my passion for science in high school, though my participation in the girls empowerment mentoring program Latinas y Que. There, I was introduced to the topic of reproductive health and health education, which sparked my desire to pursue a career in health.
When I entered UC Berkeley, in an effort to finance my education, I took a work-study job for Girls Inc. teaching science and math in an after-school program and for summer science camps serving young girls of color.
Little did I know that, in the process of deconstructing young girls’ fears about science and math, I discovered a love for teaching and health.
I immersed myself in learning more about community health, medicine and science, and developed a new outlook towards STEM training.
Finding my way to teaching
For several years, I applied what I learned in the classroom to create interactive science, math and health curricula for Girls Inc., and later in my work with Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center Inc. in Alameda County. As a Health Educator/Clinic Supervisor, I was able to teach high school health education, prepare students as health educators in the community and provide health services to youth.
These experiences taught me the importance of how social, financial and educational constructs affect the quality of health and resources people receive, and motivated me to pursue a career in medicine.
Upon moving to Kansas City, I was committed to continue serving my new community. Therefore, as a KUMC medical student, I aligned my interests in medicine and health with a desire to make STEM education accessible to underrepresented and immigrant youth, and served as an instructor and curriculum writer for Camp Pathological and the KCK Saturday Academy.
However, it was my experience as a non-traditional, working medical student that helped me realize that passion leads to success. As a result, I embarked on a new endeavor with a new vision for social change: becoming a teacher.
Defining a vision for education
It is my belief that a quality workforce requires teachers who can provide thorough and rigorous education, inspire students to discover their purpose and potential, and help them find excellence.
In my role as a Chicana STEM teacher, I look to inspire youth to think critically and apply what we have learned in the classroom to life experiences so that they can be agents of change.
Every student enters my class having traveled a different path. It is these differences in our backgrounds that determine how we solve social problems and conduct our scientific research: how we interpret our data, approach scientific innovation and create the policies affecting our world.
Our life experiences determine how we will treat our patients and future students. My mother found her passion in sewing and now I’ve found mine in STEM education.