B.A. in English, 2011, Master of Arts in Teaching, 2012
School of Education
April 1, 2011
“Being a student at UCI has been an incredibly enriching experience full of magnificent opportunities and tremendous personal growth.”
Learning and education have been passions of mine since childhood. I remember always toting around my favorite books, playing “teacher” with the neighborhood kids, and incessantly dreaming of leading a classroom filled with eager-minded students. I have always known I was born to teach. While I loved school and excelled in my academics, despite all of my ambition and desire to devote myself to education, I lacked the confidence necessary to pursue a college education and truly never thought I could be a university student. It was not until I sat down to speak with an academic counselor at Orange Coast College that I realized I could most definitely achieve my dreams of attending a fantastic university and of eventually becoming an elementary school teacher. Though my counselor perceived how skeptical and unsure I was about taking a leap of faith in applying to UCI, he looked me in the eyes and instilled such confidence in me through his genuine faith in my potential; he opened the door to a world of possibilities by believing in me and, as a result, this year I will be graduating from UCI as a driven, focused, and thriving English major and Educational Studies minor. Not only am I undoubtedly the product of my educators and mentors devoting themselves to shaping students like myself, I am more convinced than ever that knowledge is power and am exceedingly excited and eager to give back everything I have gained through my education to my future students.
Being a student at UCI has been an incredibly enriching experience full of magnificent opportunities and tremendous personal growth. I have especially been inspired by the passion and commitment to students that the Department of Education’s staff consistently exudes. When I first walked onto this campus, I felt overwhelmed by its grandeur and had no idea how I would find where I belonged. From the very first time I set foot in the Education Department, I felt welcomed and embraced. It is primarily thanks to the genuine, loving guidance and support I have received from Gisela Verduzco, one of the department’s academic counselors, that I have been made to feel as if UCI’s Education Department is my home. Not only has she given me direction as to which courses to enroll in and introduced me to outstanding professors, she has taken joy in my successes and has celebrated with me every time I have overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges; Gisela has made me feel like I am a part of a family in the Education Department and has solidified my belief that heartfelt dedication to students has the ability to make significant, life changing impacts.
Being an Educational Studies minor and having such tremendous guidance, I have been offered incredible opportunities within the department. Last year I had the honor and privilege of working alongside Professors Jeff Johnston and Tim Tift—“JJ” and “Coach T” as students affectionately call them—as a peer assistant. Playing an active role in a university classroom at the sides of two of the most remarkable educators I have ever met was the experience of a lifetime. In my time working with them I realized just how much dedication and time being a teacher requires and how unbelievably rewarding of a career it truly is. Through grading assignments, actively participating in weekly meetings, and guiding the students to a deeper comprehension of the subject, my knowledge and understanding of the teaching profession has amazingly flourished. Not only did I gain a behind-the-scenes perspective as to how much work and effort is required of teachers, I was fortunate enough to experience students’ priceless “aha” moments and was constantly reminded of why being an educator is the job of my dreams. In working with these distinguished professors, seeing their excitement and dedication to the profession, and looking up to them, I have further been encouraged to become an inspiring leader and role model for my students.
With his zest and enthusiasm for education and undying commitment to students, Professor Johnston has given me priceless encouragement and a refreshing outlook on life. He is without a doubt someone I will forever admire. JJ makes learning such a fantastic, enjoyable adventure. His classrooms feel like scenes out of feel-good movies: every single student has caught his contagious mile-long smile, amazing discussions about education are taking place, upbeat music is playing in the background, and he is somehow managing to make wearing a dinosaur mask and Hawaiian shirt part of the curriculum. I have never experienced anything like it and I never wanted to leave. As a peer assistant in his ethics class, I learned that if the teacher is genuinely passionate, nothing is impossible; I learned how to have an open mind and that having a constant willingness to learn is of the essence; and most importantly, through JJ, I’ve learned that life is about finding enjoyment in helping others and watching them become something great. I cannot wait to emulate some of his techniques in my own classroom.
Similarly, through Professor Tift’s awe-inspiring level of devotion for the teaching profession, his dedication to seeing students succeed, and the unparalleled level of joy he brings into the classroom, I have realized how vital teaching with excitement and laughter truly is. Being a peer assistant for Coach T reminded me how important it is to make the classroom a place students absolutely love. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to work under the guidance of someone as knowledgeable and revered as Coach T and, while I experienced the logistics of managing a classroom and gained so much from being able to work closely with students on their writing assignments, what captivated me the most about being a peer assistant for his class was witnessing his remarkable ability to make students feel immensely cared for and embraced. I was given a tremendous opportunity by being able to work with Professor Johnston and Professor Tift and I consider my time spent with them a privilege.
The Educational Studies minor at UCI has also allowed me to take on active, hands-on roles in working with elementary school students. I recently spent six months volunteering in a third grade classroom and had a fascinating time devoting myself fully to the children and making learning fun. From one-on-one reading fluency exercises with the students to art projects, field trips and open house, I gained invaluable insight as to what being a teacher at that level truly entails and could not be more thrilled to say I will one day lead my own classroom of young, zealous students. My desire to learn and become more knowledgeable about my future leadership position in education has blossomed considerably and I have never been more motivated to pursue my dreams.
I am an example of what believing wholeheartedly in someone can do. Thanks to the phenomenal Department of Education at UCI and the steadfast support I have received from their staff and faculty, I have decided to further my education and attend graduate school. This summer, I look forward to beginning UCI’s Master of Arts in Teaching program and am excited to see what new possibilities await me. As a future teacher, my utmost ambition is to instill within my students the same passionate love for learning and education that I have and to believe in them the way others have believed in me. While I started out at this university as a meek, little ant, I can now proudly say that I have become a bold anteater.