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Mother, daughter classmates share gift of education

April 28, 2008

Is it possible for a mother of four to be her oldest daughter’s college classmate and keep their relationship a secret? For Ana and Jennifer Ramirez, the answer is a resounding no, but they tried.

Both are graduating May 8 as teachers from the School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus. On a larger scale, the duo is part of the record 8,000 students expected to graduate from ASU, a number that surpasses last spring by at least a thousand. The university commencement ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. in Wells Fargo Arena on the Tempe campus. The ceremony will also be broadcast live on the Internet, at

When the two first set out at Mesa Community College, they wanted to keep their relationship hidden from their classmates. That worked for about, oh, two weeks before daughter Jennifer let it slip during a lab session.

“We were in a biology lab dissecting a frog together and Jennifer says, ‘Mom, that’s not how you do it!’” recounts Ana. “All of our classmates turned and gaped at us thinking how is it possible that two people we thought were either dorm mates or sisters could possibly be a mother and daughter team.”

Attending school together was admittedly awkward at first, but it provided them a support system that most students never experience.

“We were able to pool our resources and save costs on books and gas, plus we were able to study together and offer the other encouragement throughout the process,” says Jennifer.

Each started their pursuit for their bachelor’s in education degrees for different reasons. Ana was working as a full-time teacher’s aide at Jefferson Elementary School in Mesa. Once No Child Left Behind was signed into law, it required her to seek a two-year degree to keep her job as a paraprofessional.

“I had my reservations and trepidations about going to school, let alone going to the same school that my daughter was attending,” says Ana, who also is the recipient of a Rodel Promising Student Teacher Scholarship.

For Jennifer, she wanted to start on her college degree once she graduated from high school so she could become a teacher.

While their circumstances were different, they both agree they chose to pursue education for the same reason. “For us, education is one of the most important tools in the quest for a better society,” say Ana and Jennifer. “As teachers, we know that the most important objective of education is to help students pursue their desires to learn and reach their potential.”

The duo may have taken all of their classes together at ASU, but they did separate for their student teaching experiences. This spring, Ana completed her field experience in a third grade class at Eisenhower Elementary School. Jennifer finished hers with a fifth grade classroom at Jefferson Elementary School.

The pair plans to go their separate ways as teachers, somewhat.

“We are going to work for different schools in the fall,” says Ana, “however, they will be in the Mesa School District,” adds Jennifer.

Their advice to others who are thinking about going to school is to persevere, face the challenge with a deep determination and always keep your aspirations alive.

“It was all very exciting and overwhelming in a lot of ways, but no matter what circumstances crossed our path while being classmates, we stayed together and always kept our minds and hearts open,” says Ana.

The team plans to attend ASU’s spring commencement scheduled for 9 a.m., May 8, at Wells Fargo Arena; the School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation’s convocation ceremony for its graduates at 9 a.m., May 9, at Grady Gammage Auditorium; and the Hispanic Convocation at 5 p.m., May 10, at Wells Fargo Arena.