Kevin Castillo wants to teach where he’s needed most.
He wants to teach science in high school. He wants to teach in the schools where most won’t.
Nationally, school districts are grappling with a potentially crippling teacher shortage. Too many teachers are retiring and, in many cases, there are not enough new graduates ready to take their place. Special education, science and math teachers are needed most urgently.
“If you are going to go into teaching, you want to help people,” Castillo said. “I’m going to teach anyway, so I might as well teach in a place that needs me. If I’m going to have all these skills, I might as well go to a place that really needs me.”
Castillo enrolled in FIUteach, part of the National Math and Science Institute’s UTeach program, which enables students to earn both a degree in their major and a teaching certification without adding time and expense to their program.
He is supported by two scholarships. The Robert R. Bellamy Scholarship assists FIU students with tuition for students seeking to become teachers in areas of critical shortage including science. He was also selected for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, which pays for his final two years of college as long as he commits to teaching in a high-needs school.
More than just supporting his community, he is joining the family business. Castillo’s grandmother was a teacher in Cuba and in Miami. His mother is Miami-Dade County School Board Member Susie Castillo. His sister, Andrea, dreamed of earning an early childhood education degree from FIU until a 2012 car wreck claimed her life.
“Teaching will give me the opportunity to live out my sister’s dream,” Castillo said.
Still, education wasn’t his first career choice.
Castillo works at an engineering firm. For years, he thought he would become a civil engineer. Then he realized he was bored. Designing a building is mostly a function of following city code and applying long-used formulas. Basically, in engineering there is nothing left to solve – all the challenges have been answered, he said.
When he heard from FIUteach project leaders during a tour of the university, he was hooked. He decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in earth science and will have a teaching certification when he graduates.
“I made my decision on election night 2016 – not specifically because of the election result,” Castillo said. “I felt like there wasn’t enough truth or people being honest. I like critical thinking, using facts to support your argument and using honesty and empathy to drive your forward.”
As a high school teacher, Castillo hopes he’ll have the opportunity to inspire his students, teach them new things, and leverage their own curiosity to explore and challenge new scientific discoveries.
“In science, you have to learn new things,” he said. “It’s a field where people will ask for evidence and if you can prove your theory with facts and reason, no one can question you. The truth is the truth.”