Tenchita Alzaga Elizondo

Graduate Research Assistant
Portland State University


Tenchita was born in Chihuahua, Mexico but moved to Portland, Oregon with her family at only seven years old. Living in a predominately white neighborhood in Portland, Tenchita and her siblings grew up going to school as one of the only Latinx students. Both of her parents earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering in Mexico and were always strong advocates of higher education. Tenchita will forever be grateful to her parents for instilling in her a sense of belonging and for all the work they did to help her navigate an educational system that was new to all of them. Tenchita went to the University of Oregon to initially pursue a business degree. After not taking any mathematics courses her first term, she realized how much she missed and loved mathematics. She quickly changed her educational plans and completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. With plans of being a community college instructor, Tenchita went to Portland State University and completed both a Master’s in Mathematics and Master’s in Mathematics for Teaching. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, Tenchita had an opportunity to teach Portland State’s diverse student population. It was here that she saw herself reflected in her students and where she realized she could be the representation for her students that she lacked growing up. During her graduate studies, a professor encouraged Tenchita to apply to their Mathematics Education PhD program opening her up to a whole new world of research that she quickly fell in love with. Currently, Tenchita is finishing up her dissertation work which focuses on students’ collective mathematical proof activity in online spaces and is planning to pursue an academic career in the future. She hopes to both continue her research and advise future graduate students from underrepresented communities like herself.

Tenchita is currently the lead Graduate Research Assistant on an NSF-funded projected ASPIRE in Math (DUE #1916490). This project aims to design inquiry-oriented Introduction to Proof curricular materials and instructor supports. In her position, Tenchita has taken on a variety of responsibilities. For instance, she manages and oversees any data collection plans, co-designed and co-led several professional development workshops, supports project evaluation efforts including interviewing both students and instructors, and supports the implementation and (re-)design of the curricular and instructor support materials. She has also had the opportunity to participate in various research projects related to different faces of the ASPIRE in Math project in addition to her dissertation work. For example, she recently published a paper with a colleague related to students’ thinking about constructive existence proofs, she is leading efforts in designing an assessment tool for students’ participation in authentic mathematical practices, and is currently working with another colleague to build on her dissertation work to study the role of status and equity in collaborative proof-related activities.

Tenchita is lucky that her work allows her to reach hundreds of students and support them in finding a love for studying mathematics. Whether it be a student, her friends, or family, Tenchita is always eager to advise and help with their mathematics journey. In addition, her work has given her the opportunity to mentor younger grad students in the field of Mathematics Education research which she has found very fulfilling.

Tenchita advises to students to more than anything, know that they belong and that their voices matter and should be heard. She tells them “It is easy to be silenced in academic spaces that have historically excluded minorities and where you are often viewed as the exception rather than the norm. Embrace your history and your culture and know that other’s experiences are only enriched by yours.” Lastly, she adds, “find your people, while it might not always feel like it, we are out there and want to support one another.”

“As someone who grew up in a predominately white neighborhood in a predominately white city, Hispanic Heritage Month has always been a time where I could attend events and celebrations where I could come together and celebrate with people from similar backgrounds. This is always a special time to honor my culture and country and be able to show that off proudly to friends.”