As a first-generation college graduate, Larissa has always valued learning. Her mother emigrated from Mexico at a young age in pursuit of a better education. Consequently, her parents advocated for continued education for their children. Despite this instilled affinity for learning, Larissa was advised against a career in math education by high school teachers and college advisors. However, as she progressed through college, she discovered there was much more to the subject of math than what was presented in high school. She could no longer resist the urge to teach mathematics, particularly in a way that promoted the logical yet remarkable beauty of the subject. Furthermore, she hoped to provide encouragement for future mathematicians and math educators who may have encountered push back, as she did. After graduating from the Secondary Math Education Program at the University of Arizona, she chose to serve the community that supported her, and returned to the Sunnyside Unified School District to teach. Recognizing the tension often associated with mathematics, Larissa was aware she would need to provide a convincing argument for the subject. This meant keeping her practice fresh, actively seeking out professional development, engaging with educational research, and furthering her personal education to ensure she was providing the best possible instruction she could. This led her to return to the University of Arizona for a Masters of Art in Teaching and Teacher Education through the Teachers in Industry program, where she continued to teach high school math while interning in the STEM industry over the summer. She is currently teaching Calculus while enrolled in a doctoral program through the University of Arizona’s College of Education, with a major in math education and minor in diversity and social justice.
Within the first few years of teaching, Larissa realized the progress she was making within her classroom was only making a small dent in a larger issue. Revolutionizing mathematics instruction towards equity meant seeking impact beyond her classroom to serve the population of her school and community at large. Larissa became a lead teacher for the math department in 2017, and has served in the position since. Responsibilities include modeling effective practices, supporting collaborative team structures, assisting in school wide planning, conducting peer observations, and providing professional development. Larissa has also collaborated with the University of Arizona’s teacher education programs by serving on several teacher panels in the Center for Recruitment and Retention, bringing U of A math students to the classroom as tutors, offering a full school year of support as a mentor teacher for future educators, and serving as a co-instructor for multiple graduate level courses. In educational and research presentations, Larissa has shared instructional strategies to effectively incorporate technology in mathematics lessons, facilitate meaningful group work, redefine the student role in the classroom, and use teacher and student self-reflection to improve understanding. In 2018, she was accepted into the Desmos Teaching Fellowship, and returned in 2019 to assist new fellows. Larissa was also recognized by Tucson Values Teachers in partnership with Raytheon Missile Systems as the Raytheon Leader in Education Award in 2019. As a graduate student, Larissa was awarded the Arizona NASA Space Grant, Graduate Access Fellowship, Graduate Tuition Scholarship, and Graduate AFAT Need-Based Award. Most recently, Larissa proposed and received approval to offer an Applied Statistics course for the upcoming school year which will allow students to use statistical tools to critically analyze social issues in our world.
Larissa has found her calling in teaching, and in particular, teaching mathematics. While she loves the mental gymnastics of crafting lessons that allow students to experience joy in math, the true reward in teaching is the opportunity to learn with and from students. She is inspired by this generation of young people who hold an incredible depth of social awareness. She wants to contribute to the progress being made in solving the problems faced by our educational system and our society for the sake of these students, leading the charge for change.
For those considering pursuing K-12 education, Larissa enthusiastically encourages this endeavor! She recommends finding your cadre of educators that will allow you to vent without creating toxicity, to share ideas without judgment, and to grow without limitations! Larissa believes there is a growing need for people capable of understanding the mathematics of the real world, from addressing inequities in gender and race, to flattening the curve of a global pandemic. She thinks mathematics can be a tool to analyze sociocultural issues and a means to affect change and believes “Math teachers need the opportunity to learn about current movements in mathematics education research and be trusted to implement theories or strategies learned so students are prepared to face challenges beyond the classroom.”
"Truthfully, I do not feel a connection to Hispanic Heritage Month. These things can be tricky with only an allotted time for appreciation."