Andrea Kristell Medrano is Co-President of UCI's Bilingual Teacher Student Association (BTSA). BTSA, open to all bilingual students interested in pursuing a bilingual teaching career, focuses on developing and supporting future bilingual teachers by providing volunteer opportunities at various dual language immersion schools, mentorships, and attendance at various cultural events.
Andrea is a junior with a dual major in Education Sciences and Spanish. Below, she shares her thoughts about her educational journey and her proposed choice of career.
I am a 1.5 generation student who was born in Michoacan, Mexico, but raised in San Gabriel, California. I have been part of the American education system since I enrolled in first grade and graduated from high school through the San Gabriel Unified School District. Even though I learned English, there were linguistic and cultural challenges that I had to face and was able to overcome as a result of having great teachers, educators, and mentors. I knew that I would not have succeeded the way I did if it were not for them; they inspired me to become one of them; and I knew that no matter what I was going to do, I was going to use Spanish, help children, and help the Latino community in whatever occupation I was going to have. Ever since I enrolled as an undergraduate student in 2016 as a Spanish Major at UCI, I have done nothing but discover what my passion is.
My second year at UCI was crucial in helping me figure out what career path I wanted to take. I added the Major in Education Sciences as well as the Minor in Spanish/English Bilingual Education. I joined the Human Abilities in Bilingual Language Acquisition (HABLA) Lab team as a Research Assistant and became Co-President of the Bilingual Student Teacher Association (BTSA) at UCI. My fieldwork experience tutoring at Heninger Elementary in Santa Ana allowed me to see that I wanted to work with younger kids, especially in Latino communities with students with low reading abilities. Now, as third year I have started to seek getting more experience with kids and the classroom. I became a teacher’s assistant at the UCI Children’s Center with children ages 2 to 5 where I interact with them and learn about their cognitive and social development. I also became a Research Assistant to El Areyto Lab for Second Language Acquisition & Bilingualism and joined Global Connect, where I intern at Laguna Hills High School in a dual immersion classroom. I am absolutely enjoying being in the classroom with older students and teaching important global issues in Spanish. I hope to continue doing this work and research until I finish and continue into graduate school to become a teacher.
My passion is to learn and to apply what I learn to become an efficient educator that can assist students succeed, especially the Spanish speaking Latino community. What I value most is learning, whether it may be something I learn from a professor at a lecture hall or from getting myself exposed to environments where I can absorb more knowledge and comprehend for myself what it is that can help students enrolled in K-12 excel in school. For me, it has become a matter of observing and evaluating what I learn, taking away the most from my surroundings, experiences, and environments I find myself in. There is always something to learn and something that I know that I can do to apply that knowledge to the field of education and to the world itself. Knowledge is power and the education that I have thus far received has turned out to be one of the most valuable things that I have as a person. Education is the tool that has a transformed who I am and how I think about myself as a Spanish speaking Latina student at UCI. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to be receiving a higher education and to know that everyday I can go home believing that what I am learning, at least some of my knowledge, I will pass down to the people I interact with and will interact with in the future just as many educators in my life did in my life.
As a first-generation student born in Mexico, I do not take for granted the exposure that I had while being part of different educational institutions in Mexico and in the United States. I may know what it feels like to attend school without knowing or speaking one single word of English, but something that I also know is how having knowledgeable educators arms students like me to recognize that learning takes us places. What we can do with the knowledge we acquire is unimaginably powerful and infinite; it is just a matter of realizing how to use it. If it were not for the teachers, the principals, academic counselors, and mentors I had, I would have never have had the opportunity to recognize the value in education and the importance of investing countless time and energy in Latino students like myself.
There is a lot potential in the Latino and bilingual community that needs to be unlocked. As a Spanish speaker myself I know that being fluent in the language has opened up countless opportunities to communicate and acquire even more knowledge about who I am and what work I wanted to do. Language is as complex as it is valuable to understanding the people who speak it. Closing educational achievements gaps is my intellectual passion. I want to give back as I was given when I struggled because of my cultural and linguistic differences. I want to continue to feel connected to my culture and Latinos who I know can I achieve even better things that I ever will.
There really is nothing more rewarding and incredible then to see Bilingual Latino students rise to top and get them one step closer to reaching their potential and becoming intellectually enriched. Whether it is students who are enrolled preschool or high school, there is always a need to invest in them and in their future. If it were not for those educators that I interacted with, who fostered a strong work ethic, I would have not had as many academic achievements in my K-12 education and even now at UCI.