Education Students Share the Dream of Making a Difference through Teaching
Albert Walker didn’t always want to be a teacher. A job with the CIA or FBI or a career as a sports agent were closer to the top of his list. But when he began to play basketball and run track in high school, he realized the impact he could have on young people as a coach and teacher.
Audrey Estupinan, on the other hand, knew she wanted to teach from the time she was a little girl. She would collect school supplies rather than Barbies and make her little sister play school, whether she liked it or not.
Although these two Texas State students are very different, they share a dedication to pursuing careers in teaching. And now they share something else: a prestigious honor for doing it well. Walker and Estupinan are two of just 25 college students in the nation to receive the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s (RBF) 2008 Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color.
They are the 18th and 19th Texas State students to receive RBF fellowships since the program’s inception in 1992, and they are among a select group of recipients from universities including Brown, Duke and Yale.
Both will receive up to $22,100 during a five-year period that begins in summer 2008, takes them through their final undergraduate year and the pursuit of their master’s degrees, and ends after three years of teaching in public schools.
Albert Walker For Walker, one of the best parts of being an RBF Fellow has been the trips — in March 2008, he flew for the first time, traveling to New York City for his RBF finalist interview, and on his birthday in August 2008, he will fly to Washington, D.C., to present his RBF summer project.
Incoming RBF Fellows are required to complete a summer project between their junior and senior years. The projects provide the Fellows with valuable teaching experience.
With the help of his mentor, James Matthews, one of his first professors at Texas State, Walker developed a tutoring and learning assistance program with a mentoring component that he is using to work with children at the Greater San Marcos Youth Council, a shelter for abused and neglected children.
“It’s called ‘Step Up,’” Walker says. “The program focuses on study strategies and helps with math, language and other areas for kids who are struggling academically. The other part is on character development. It helps them discuss things that go on in everyday life. I like helping kids, so I thought it would be a nice way to do that.”
Walker’s work with children goes beyond his summer project. He is also an advisor to the youth department at his church. He helps create activities for the children and acts as a mentor to them.
“Albert is a humble person who has found ways to influence people in positive ways,” Matthews says. “His ability to relate to people from all walks of life will help him become a good teacher and coach.”
Walker plans to do just that and is pursuing teaching certificates in both exercise and sports science and mathematics. After he earns his master’s degree in educational administration, he plans to coach high school basketball and teach mathematics, then become an administrator.
“I’d really like to coach and be an assistant principal … and win a few state championships,” he says with a huge smile. Then, more seriously, “As an educator, you have a chance to help others make a better life for themselves. If you create an environment that is conducive to learning and encourage your students to work hard, I think the sky’s the limit as to what you can bring out of your students.”
Audrey Estupinan “Ms. E” — the name Estupinan will use as a teacher because her last name (pronounced ess-too-pin-yun) will be “too hard” for first- or second-graders to say — plans to make learning fun. “I want my students to love coming to my class,” she says. “I don’t want it to be about remembering and regurgitating. I want them to know it and be able to live it and apply it in life. I want them to be captivated.”
Estupinan’s lifelong passion for teaching is fueled by a love of reading she’s had since she was a little girl, when she would go to the bookstore with her dad and come home with the latest R.L. Stine or Fear Street book and get so absorbed that she would continue to read even after lights-out.
Even though she still has her senior year and student teaching to complete before she’ll be certified to teach, Estupinan is gaining experience by teaching part time at a private preschool and through her summer project for RBF.
Superheroes is the theme for her project, which she is conducting under the auspices of the Austin Public Library’s Wired for Youth community program. “When I saw Iron Man, I knew I had do something with it,” Estupinan says. “I thought about other movies about superheroes like The Incredible Hulk that are coming out this summer, and I started researching it. Comics are actually a great way for students to express themselves.”
For the project, students — 8- to 14-year-olds — use computer applications to create and animate their own superheroes in comic books. While their superheroes solve problems facing today’s society such as pollution, bullying or global warming, the students flex their own intellectual muscles, exercising their computer, creative thinking, researching and problem-solving skills.
Estupinan already knows something about keeping kids engaged. She has two of her own — Jordan, a seventh-grader, and Alyssa, a kindergartner. Both are proud of their mom for her achievements, including her RBF fellowship. “They are so supportive,” she says. “And it’s great for them to see me working hard and being rewarded for it.”
At 29, Estupinan is a little older than most college seniors, but she’s also wiser. “I’m so much more disciplined [than when I was 18]. I don’t expect anything but an A. I just work harder,” she says. “So it’s been a blessing that I had that time to spend with my children and take my time and now I’m going full force. I appreciate it. I know that it’s what I want to do.”
She also appreciates the education she has received at Texas State. In fact, when she graduates in 2009, she hopes to stay at Texas State to earn her master’s in educational technology through the Teacher Fellows program.
“I’ve always wanted to attend Texas State,” Estupinan says. “I was scared at first, but it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done. I’m in my second block of education classes now, and I can’t wait for future blocks. I’m on an online forum with teachers, and when I say I’m going to Texas State, they say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky.’ There’s a reputation for it having the best education program in the United States.”
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