“I wanted to study teaching because I love it,” said Zoraida Villanueva, 30, who graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of special education and blazed her own trail, serving students in Homestead.
“It doesn’t matter what someone might say to discourage you from being a teacher. There are so many options – you can go into public schools, private schools or charter schools – or, you can do what I did and start your own school.”
Villanueva, who opened the Villa Preparatory Academy three years ago, was one of 21 alumni to visit with students in art, counseling, science, social studies, and international and special education courses.
While many speakers focused on inspiring students, high school teacher Nate “Dee” Delinois, ’03, MS ’10, also wanted to give them tips on how to keep vulnerable arts programs from being cut.
“You have to try to be as visible as possible,” he cautioned. “The first two years of teaching, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your classes and lessons. Try to highlight your program, enter your kids in county-wide competitions and let your principals know when they win awards.”
In addition, Delinois, who is having a solo exhibition in the Graham Center through Feb. 26, suggested collaborating with other teachers to have art projects tie in with literature or history lessons.
For at least one alumna, PAW provided another opportunity to take the reins of a Law and Higher Education class – her mother’s, Clinical Associate Professor Norma Goonen.
“Even though I come from a long line of educators; I still get a little bit of nerves because it’s my mother and I want to do well,” said Sylvia Medina-Shore, a Florida compensation claims judge based in Miami. “I’ve taught one of her classes before, but the first time it was funny because you try to be very professional and I called her Dr. Goonen and then I slipped and called her mom and everyone laughed.”