Valeria Ordonez has been awarded the President’s Educator Fellowship during the UCI School of Education 2018-2019 Scholarship Award Ceremony. Valeria is pursuing her CalTeach Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science along with her California Teaching Credential. Below, she shares her thoughts about her academic journey.
My name is Valeria Ordonez. I grew up in Ecuador in poverty, but my mom always worked hard to keep us well-fed and with a roof on our heads. My dad was a U.S. citizen at the time, but he was never really there for us. He would be extremely violent, spend the money he made on his pleasures, and leave all the responsibilities to my mom. Sometimes I would hear my mom crying because she did not have enough for the bills, and I would see her work extra hard planting and selling her crops to nearby markets. School wise, my middle school teachers would sometimes bring food for my brother and sister, and for me. They would always tell me that education was one of the ways to overcome some of the obstacles of life, they would be there for me when my mom could not pick us up after school, and they were like second mothers for us.
One day, after my grandparents died, my dad miraculously came back with a different attitude. He arranged the documents to bring us to the U.S., and we became U.S. citizens. The first few weeks we lived in a van (there were five of us), until my mom decided to look for an apartment. My dad worked in a clothing company as a mechanic and did not have enough for rent, so my mom started selling stuff in the streets. Overtime, she saved enough for rent and got a studio in Los Angeles. We started school, and it was really difficult for me because I did not speak any English; but with the support of my teachers, I learned little by little, and became the salutatorian from my class.
My experiences have helped me become the person I am today, and that is the main reason I want to teach children from low-income families- because I understand their needs, and because I want to make them feel valued and respected. I want to help them understand that education is a way to build a strong foundation for their future.
Valeria Ordonez and CalTeach Master Teacher Kris Houston