Jennifer Aguayo is a Mexican-American professor of mathematics at Napa Valley College. She is a first-generation college graduate inspired by her family to pursue a degree in STEM in hopes of one day achieving a level of financial stability that her family lacked while growing up in Napa, California. Despite having limited guidance and support from K-12 teachers and counselors, Jennifer navigated these school years successfully. Jennifer began her higher education at Napa Valley College, and she is proud to be a product of student services, including Puente, EOPS, MESA and SSS/TRiO. She transferred to UC Santa Barbara and earned her Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences in 2012. She went on to pursue her Master of Science in Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. As a graduate student, Jennifer had the opportunity to begin her teaching experience. This experience revealed a passion for teaching! Since earning her Master’s degree in 2014, Jennifer has been teaching math at community colleges, implementing new ideas every semester, adapting to new policies and unforeseen circumstances, and embracing student-centered ideologies. Jennifer is committed to helping students achieve short-term and long-term goals by providing resources and mentoring in addition to teaching. She embraces a growth mindset and prioritizes a positive learning environment for all. She has been a Puente Program Mentor for the past seven years. She is eager to help her mentees build the social and cultural capital needed to succeed academically and professionally. In her role as the HSI-STEM Math Department Liaison, Jennifer meets and engages with STEM students to increase math faculty presence outside of the classroom; she participates in professional development related to culturally-relevant pedagogy and engages in conversations regarding best practices with other STEM faculty. Jennifer gives workshops through the Math Success Center, a free tutoring center at Napa Valley College, to support students with particularly challenging topics in math courses. She participates in outreach efforts at local high schools and at community events with the hopes of attracting diverse students to STEM fields and informing them of college resources available to them.
“During my elementary years, I was discouraged from speaking Spanish in the classroom, even when attempting to help by translating. When I should have felt proud, I was compelled to be embarrassed to admit Spanish is my first language. Hispanic Heritage Month represents the pride, fulfillment, and appreciation I have for my Mexican heritage. It constitutes confidence and self-worth. It means I should celebrate and embrace, without any shame, my family, my roots, my history, and my accomplishments! Hispanic Heritage Month means ‘¡Si Se Puede!’”