Elvia Lopez-Hernandez (3rd Quarter, 2006)

3rd Quarter, 2006
Minority Scholarship Winner
Elvia Lopez-Hernandez

In 2001, I applied to college to study the B.A in English Language Teaching. Even though my family was having serious economical problems, I could afford my tuition, school material and rent with an economical scholarship I got at my school and some savings I got from my work in a herbal store. Fortunately, I could keep that scholarship until I graduate.

During the last two semesters of my major, I did some professional practices in a Language Center. As practitioners, we had to help teachers to teach some lessons applying different teaching methods, approaches, and techniques. It was a good experience for me since I was doing what I like, to teach.

After I graduated from college (2005), I was giving some English lessons to a group of children in my neighborhood, as well as I was teaching in an Institute to a group of teenagers. I did that for about three months.

In January 3rd, 2006, I came to the United States in a program called Cultural Care Au pair. I took the decision to apply to this program because I was willing to improve my English level, to learn about American culture, and besides that because I love children.

I got to Purcellville, Virginia to live with a host family in order to take care of a three-month baby, live together with the family to learn about their customs, and traditions. I had also the opportunity to take some credits in the Northern Virginia Community Center. I took some classes such as: Listening and Speaking, Reading and Writing, Advanced Writing, Accent Improvement.

Currently I am taking a class titled American Culture. Moreover, I am enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature; I am taking a distance course to write books for children. I am lucky to have as my personal instructor a professional writer, Constance McAllister.

A Portion of Elvia’s Winning Essay:

It is always difficult to make decisions; even more when you are aware that the decision you make will have a great impact on your whole life, as it is the case of choosing your profession. Your profession will be the basis on which you will build your future: Choosing a career that suits you will fulfill your personal desires such as doing what you love and enjoying doing it, having a family, your own house, car; as well as allow you to be helpful and productive for your community, country and why not for the world, However, this decision is a clear reflection of who you are, in other words, it has to do directly with your background in the cultural, social, political, familiar, religious, rational, physical and sexual aspects.

For instance in my case, it was not difficult to choose what I wanted to become, an English teacher. First of all because I was supported by my family. Moreover, I love sharing what I have learned. I followed my teachers’ inspiration and I love the English language.

When I talk about family support I mean that I come from a Mexican family of six members where my father a 53 year-old man was the main economical support for his wife, and four school age children. By that time I made the decision of studying the B.A in English Language Teaching at a public university, located 1 hour far from the small city where I lived (Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Hidalgo, Mexico). My family was having serious economical problems due to the unexpected closure of a factory where my dad worked for 30 years. Since the factory closed due to bankruptcy, my Dad was severed from his work without receiving payment. It was hard for him to find another job because of his age, lack of academic preparation (he just finished elementary school), besides that all the area where we live was in the same condition of unemployment.

It seemed that everyday that passed was getting worse for my family, but I remember very well one day when my mom and dad talked to us, their four children. They told us that for any reason we did not have to drop out of school and all of us we would overcome that situation together. My dad moved to a small town where he found two jobs one as a farmer and another one as construction worker. My mom started selling plastic products at public markets, my older brother and one of my younger brothers started an aquarium with some savings they had, they did it just on weekends, but they still do it. I, the second and only daughter had been working in a herbal store since I was about 13 years, so I was working on weekends and whenever I had free time. I took my youngest brother with me so that he could help me.

Everybody was trying to do their best, and even when we just had to eat rice, beans and “nopales”, we were fine. My parents were proud of us because my brothers and I were at school. Then, as I was the only girl in my family that was studying far from our city I had to decide to move to a close place where my school was, so that I could spend less money in transportation and be safe of traveling everyday. I paid my tuition and the rent of the place where I was living in, with some money that I got from my work and the scholarship I had when I was in high school.

Fortunately, for the second semester of my bachelor I could apply for a scholarship which helped me to pay scholar material and tuition. As you could see, my family support was not just economical, but also affective and encouraging. I am deeply grateful with them since their support has played an important role in my life in order to accomplish my goals. One of my accomplished goals was to become an English teacher because I followed my teachers’ inspiration and my love for English.

In addition, I love sharing what I am and what I know. I am convinced that the only way in which our society can evolve or have a positive progress is through education, and I do not mean by education just the simple act of acquiring certain knowledge or any skill through a specific learning process, but I mean to that learning process that involves the transmission of values through experiences and real life examples which enrich your learning and help students have a growth as individuals. Considering education as an important aspect in my life, and knowing that this process is comprised mainly of two elements: teaching and learning. I started focusing my attention on learning during my first years of school.

At this point, I would like to make a remembrance of the most precious memories I have about my upbringings so that you can have a better understanding of my position about following my teachers’ footsteps. As you are kid, you try to find your hero, you find it first at home with mommy and daddy, they are the most amazing people you can know in all the senses, but when is time to go to school, the ones that take that heroic role are teachers. That was exactly what happened to me.

I have to admit that my first day of class in kindergarten was awful, I cried as a baby because I did not want to leave my mom, I was the only kid that day that had the worst behavior. You could imagine me kicking the teacher, screaming and crying, holding my mom’s dress, etc. I think that my beginning was not good; I did not really like school because I was obliged to go, and because that is what all kids do.

Fortunately, those ideas about school changed when I was in fourth grade of elementary school, I had the privilege of knowing one of my favorite teachers, my teacher Gisela Montiel. Mrs. Montiel was intelligent, fair, organized, warm, tender, nice, sweet, and responsible among other qualities. She helped me to enjoy learning; every class of hers was fascinating because she always presented it in a different, but easy way using games, dynamics, real examples, and all kind of activities that involves students). She had always time for every student to listen to him/her and the exact words to motivate them. I would say that what made me definitely change my mindset about learning was a post card that I received from her where she wrote down her thoughts and expectations about me. Even it seems to be something foolish, that was my motivation to believe that I can do whatever I want if I work hard to get it.

From that day my grades started to increase as well as my confidence. This is what I mean when I talk about education, how the teaching and learning process can change people’s life not just for a moment but forever. My list of favorite teachers could continue with two more, the first one my Spanish teacher of secondary school, Mrs. Estrada was like a friend who was a very strict teacher, but also so nice, easygoing, respectful, warm, happy, and noble.

I learned from her that perseverance is the only way to reach your goals and also that you have to enjoy every single thing you do, it does not matter if you make mistakes while you are doing it, because on the other way you will be regretting for not doing it. She helped me to find a great love for reading, she always found an encouraging form to make us read, and then I did not need to be asked to read because I enjoyed it.

I am so happy that after seven years of being her student I am still in contact with her and our friendship is a good one. I went to visit her to the new school where she was teaching when I was about to graduate me from college, she was so excited to see me. We hugged each other and we were just talking about our memories when I was in secondary school and the recent events that happened since then, it was great. I usually called her by phone, but when it was teacher’s day I used to go to see her, the last time I did it I was in some economical problems again, I talked to her, and she just looked at me and told me that I did not have to worry for things that have solution. She took her wallet and gave me the only bill she had on it. I did not want to accept it, but she asked me to do it, saying that she would like to help me in any way she could because I was her inspiration to continue being a teacher.

I keep those phrases in a special place of my heart. And finally but not least my other inspiration teacher was my English teacher, Mrs. Rodriguez, when I was in secondary school, although she was not my teacher at this school, she is my neighbor and she is English teacher of a different school to the one I attended. She become my personal English teacher because one they she talked to my mom and asked her if she would like that her kids took English classes with her after school, my mom was delighted with the idea, but a little concerned for the payment. Mrs. Rodriguez told my mom that she knew perfectly the situation we were living, and she was doing that because she wanted to help us to learn, and besides that she told my mom that she was thankful with her because when she was studying to become an English teacher my mom sometimes borrowed her money, and now it was her turn to pay what she did for her. We paid her but it was a minimal quantity just for photocopies.

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