Manuela was raised in Mexico, in the small coastal town of Desemboque, where the population was 120, and education was not valued, especially not for women. She couldn’t attend school unless she finished her chores. Many days, she did not go. This was her life until 2nd grade when she came to the United States in hopes of a better future. She was plunged into a school where no one looked like her, spoke her language, or acknowledged her lack of education. The language/cultural differences were overwhelming. She felt like she didn’t even exist. But despite these barriers, she found a common language: math. She was able to engage during hands-on math activities because numbers did not need to be translated. She felt successful for the first time in an educational setting.
Manuela did not immediately pursue college because of her lack of self-esteem as a learner. After four years of low paying jobs, she wanted more. Once in college, she found her strength and future in math/science education. Manuela has been teaching in the elementary field for 14 years with an endorsement in Math and ELD. She finds that, just like her younger self so long ago, her ELD students can break the language/cultural barriers through math and science. Because of her past, she knows how to reach these ELD students and others. Manuela’s future goals are to make a difference in students’ lives through math and science. She wants to be a role model for all her students, but especially for her students that are both Hispanic and female. Manuela knows that Latina women are the minority in the STEM field. Through her passion, gift of understanding, and vision, she is making a difference. Manuela continues to perfect her skills by continual professional development courses whenever possible.
Manuela is proud of many accomplishments, both personally and professionally. Professionally, Manuela has successfully received various grants, which enabled her to provide her students with hands-on practice each year with Edison Robots. Students learned how to code, work cooperatively, put into practice the steps of the scientific theory, and make real world connections to modern engineering. Manuela has also been instrumental in environmental projects. She led the way to bring gardening into schools and created a school-wide recycling program from scratch. For both projects, she obtained the grants to physically fund them. Manuela was honored to be recognized by the Mayor of Tucson, AZ for her work in this field. She is a current member of CSTA AZ (Arizona Science Center), a math and science organization of professionals. Through this, Manuela has been invited to attend seminars, including a weekend insider view of the Biosphere in Tucson, AZ. Manuela is an active member of the Psi Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa International Honorary Organization for Women Educators, Psi Sorority of Women Educators, where she is currently serving on the executive board as Treasurer. One of her most memorable personal accomplishments was when her Kindergarteners entered in the Southern AZ Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF) in 2013. The class, composed of all ELD students, won first place by investigating “Do Liquids Disappear.” They also received an honorary certificate of achievement from TEP (Tucson Electrical Power), and an additional first place award from Arizona Hydrological Society. Currently, Manuela is pursuing her Masters in Reading in order to better serve her students. This will greatly help with her dream of all curriculums being taught together and not in isolated “subjects.”
Manuela’s favorite thing about her job as an educator/teacher is that she makes a difference every day in her students’ lives, year after year. She prides herself on designing creative, hands-on lessons that are fun for her as well as her students—they want to come to school! She sees herself as a role model for her ELD students and families. Manuela is thrilled when former students return to share how much they loved being in her class. Manuela’s advice to those that are considering a career in the K-12 education field is that “you need to be ready and willing to handle constant change, be strong enough to not doubt yourself, and always be open to new ideas. Building a community of learners is as important as the academics, if not more. In education, it is critical to be able to learn from your peers and be an efficient part of a school community.” Manuela’s philosophy as an educator is that if you follow your heart, it will lead you to new adventures
Manuela strongly believes it is critical for teachers in the mathematical community to understand that all students process math in so many different ways, “Teachers need to be trained in facilitating students to be effective problem solvers in the way that they understand.” From her experience, Manuela has learned that it is not about getting the right answer, but rather, understanding the process. She thinks more professional development is needed to help teachers understand the necessity of students collaborating and the power of student led discussions. She explains, “This development must center on how to create a mathematical community where it is okay to take risks, make mistakes, but then learn from them.” Manuela believes that teachers need permission to slow the pace as needed so that more mastery of concepts can take place. Additionally, she thinks teachers also need to understand the importance of manipulatives and hands-on learning.
“I strongly believe that Hispanic Heritage Month is important to celebrate the culture of Hispanics in our nation. As a Latina, born in Mexico, it makes me proud of my roots to know that I, now as an American-Mexican citizen, can be a role model for other Latino Americans. I feel that Hispanic Heritage Month highlights and educates others of the struggles as well as the important contributions that my heritage has contributed to this country. Because of the many different countries that Latinos originate from, Hispanic Heritage Month is one small way of helping Latinos as well as non-Latinos understand the richness of their culture. I am honored to be a part of this celebration but wish that it could be a bigger part of American education.”