Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
Cinthia Garcia found her calling as a teacher in high school, but she didn’t discover her niche until she was in college.
Garcia, who is graduating from Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (bilingual education and English as a second language), is ready to start her career and transform lives.
“I relate well to Spanish-speaking students from other countries because we share the same culture, background and experiences,” said Garcia, who is currently student teaching at Esperanza Elementary School in the Isaac Elementary District in Phoenix. “They are dealing with issues that most grade schoolers don’t have to face such as deportation and being held back in classrooms. They will benefit greatly from a teacher who understands them.”
Garcia has a standing offer from Esperanza to start work after graduation but can play the field — ESL instructors are in high demand across the country.
She said her time at ASU was both challenging and exhilarating, with knowledgeable educators pushing her far beyond her expectations.
“ASU took me so much further that I thought I could go,” Garcia said.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study bilingual education?
Answer: Before attending ASU, I went to Estrella Mountain Community College and took courses in elementary education. One of the courses I had to take was about ESL students and how the teaching would be adjusted to assist these students. This is when I fell in love with the idea of becoming an ESL/bilingual teacher. My professor had inspired me and I would leave class feeling this incredible amount of excitement and determination. I had known I wanted to become a teacher since my senior year of high school, but I had no idea that there was a path for me at ASU. Bilingual/ESL students are my passion, I feel like I can relate to them in so many ways, especially culturally. My mother was also an ESL student when she was in school, so I am well aware of what it felt like to be a student in that position. I wanted to become a critically conscious teacher and bring my passion for teaching and culture together and I feel like I can achieve that with the career I chose.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU?
A: While at ASU I learned the truth behind what it means to be a teacher. #REDforED was in full force during the time I was going through my internships. Teachers were losing hours of work and class time to advocate for the betterment of the educational system here in Arizona. However, instead of shying away from becoming a teacher due to the challenges of it, it made me that much more excited to become part of the growth and change. Teachers have to put in work day in and day out, whether they are in the classroom or not. During my senior year internship, I felt like I was becoming a full-fledged teacher, and I started to experience how much of myself was being dedicated to them. It was and still is a challenge as I complete this year, but I have never been afraid of a challenge, or else I wouldn't consider myself a Sun Devil.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because I was researching which university had the best college for future teachers. I really liked MLFTC and did more research on what they had to offer and immediately knew I would want to be part of the MLFTC program. I was part of the MAPP program at my community college, which made my transition to ASU so much easier. I knew exactly which courses to take so that I would be ready to become a Sun Devil.
Q: What’s the best advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Never lose sight of what you came here to accomplish, and never feel like you don’t have what it takes. Each year has new challenges and you will often find yourself questioning whether you made the right choice or if you bit off more than you can chew. The truth is, maybe you are incredibly overwhelmed, maybe you found a new passion, or maybe things are getting too rocky, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle. Look at them as opportunities to grow and discover you are capable of more than you knew before. ASU is the best place to try new classes, meet new people, and discover more about yourself. Your dream may change, but your love and dedication to yourself should not. Go easy on yourself; you are doing the best you can.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?
A: This was probably the easiest question of them all — the Memorial Union at the Tempe campus. I found myself here more often than I should have, but it is perfect for all your needs. There is almost always something going on there, the food choice is so vast, and it is a great place to meet new people or just sit and do some homework. My favorite days would be when the clubs would set up DJs and promote themselves, the music made the environment so lively and fun. I would sip on some coffee from Starbucks and chat up with members of my cohort; I can still taste that caramel frappe.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: First, I would take a much needed trip. I am debating between California and Mexico, but I am not sure yet; either way, a trip is well deserved. My next big goal would be to become the best fifth grade teacher I can possibly be. At this time, I don’t know what school I will work in, but I have applied to the Litchfield School District and also have been offered a position at my current internship. Whichever school I end up in, I would like to become an asset to my students, coworkers, parents and the overall community. A school, to me, is much more than just what goes on in the classroom. I would like to take part in all the school and community events, and create a classroom that is known to be welcoming and productive.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would invest in organizations that help the environment. There won’t be a “livable” planet for long if we don’t make changes now. This is also one of the attributes that I love about ASU because each campus has solar panels and plenty of trash cans with a recycle bin. The ocean is suffering the most and it takes up most of the planet, the incredible trash islands and oil spills, endangered species, and overall quality and temperature of the water are just some of the tragedies that exist environmentally. We only have one ocean, one planet and one choice to make. I think we should make the right one and switch to sustainable energy, create new methods of trash control and change our perspective on how dire the situation really is. I would like for my students and their children to live in a world that is healthy and full of life, and if I had that amount of money, I would do my best to secure that wish.
Top image: Cinthia Garcia is a summa cum laude graduate in bilingual/ESL education. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
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