#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘I Want My Classroom to Feel Representative of My Students and a Space Where They Can Be Themselves’ Says Jessica Terrones ’22
When Jessica Terrones ’22 was deciding where to attend college, the NC State College of Education initially was not at the top of her list. But that changed when former College of Education Dean Danowitz sent her a handwritten letter, one Terrones still has, four years later.
“I remember opening it and being surprised that someone as important and busy as her had spent the time to write and send me a handwritten note,” she said. “At that moment, I knew NC State was where I belonged, and I would have a community to support me. I took it as a sign to pursue becoming the teacher I always wanted to be since I was 5 years old, and I have never regretted my decision.”
During her time at NC State, Terrones, a middle school mathematics education major, has made her presence felt as a member of that supportive Wolfpack community. A Goodnight Scholar and a University Scholar, she is also a student worker with Multicultural Student Affairs, where she served as the NC State University Latinx Heritage Month committee chair in 2020.
Within the College of Education, she joined the Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN), served as a counselor for the Leadership Institute for Future Teachers (LIFT) and worked as a research assistant evaluating culturally responsive trauma-informed pedagogical school programs. That’s in addition to serving as an undergraduate student ambassador, an undergraduate Global Educator, a member of Passport to Success and, this year, as the Education Council president.
With the Education Council, the umbrella organization for all student organizations within the College of Education, Terrones said she gained leadership experience while being part of a group of like minded students who were always there for each other.
“They were one of the first people I told that I accepted a job offer and passed edTPA and have continued to support me throughout my student teaching experience,” Terrones said. “Overall, if there was one thing I am grateful for, it is the unlimited support I received and the lessons learned. I know I’m not the loudest person in the room, but that leadership experience helped shape how I feel at the front and my ability to lead.”
Terrones, who graduates in May, will have an opportunity to take advantage of her leadership skills in the classroom, where she’ll be returning to her former middle school to teach seventh grade math.
“It’s a bit exciting and strange to think about going back as a teacher instead of a student, but I’m more than ready to take on this new experience,” Terrones said.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why I Chose Education:
I chose education because of my parents. My parents had to drop out of school at around a sixth- and ninth-grade level in their home country due to familial and financial obligations. Even though they had limited schooling, that never stopped them from sitting alongside me to lend their fingers to count on, and they never undervalued the importance of attaining an education. To my K-12 teachers, they may have seemed uninvolved due to their inability to be present at award ceremonies or parent-teacher conferences, but I knew that an hour or two made a difference in what bills could be paid for that week. Our experience is just one of many that students go through daily in our school system, lacking educators who share similar experiences or show cultural awareness, so I want to be a part of the change to include more representation in the classroom.
Why I Chose Mathematics Education:
There is a comfort in math, when you can reach the same final answer differently. I might have gotten the answer one way, while my peer did it another. Doing so demonstrates how universal mathematics is, and no matter who we are or how we think, we can all reach the solution. It makes math appear less intimidating and freeing compared to other subjects. Its universality inspired me to choose mathematics education.
How Education Has Shaped Me:
Education has allowed me the opportunity to become more aware and understanding of different perspectives and experiences. A student who always falls asleep during the first period may appear disengaged and to have no care for their grade. But instead they may be struggling to fall asleep at night due to a newborn sibling. Everyone we encounter, whether students, colleagues, peers, friends or family, goes through daily difficulties that we are unaware of simply because we don’t bother to connect. Education has enabled me to understand the value of making connections and forming relationships.
What I Enjoyed Most About Being Part of the NC State College of Education:
My favorite part about the College of Education has been the small class sizes and education programs. Within my cohort for mathematics education, there are around 30 students, but in my middle school math cohort, there are only about eight of us in the program. This has made it easier to connect with my peers and form long-lasting relationships compared to other colleges, where there may be hundreds of students in a cohort. It’s also been nice to have been together since freshman year. It’s made it easier to talk about the struggles we’ve encountered throughout our student teaching experience, like a lesson not going as planned or encountering our first middle school fight. The College of Education is a family that supports one another, and I couldn’t have asked for better classmates, professors and advisors that have followed me along this journey.
What Others Should Know About the NC State College of Education:
The College of Education is truly one of the best colleges at NC State. What separates the college from others is the community and familial feel. Something I constantly feared when deciding to attend NC State was becoming just another student on a roster. Instead, my professors remembered who I was and greeted me from across the collegel. I had professors I hadn’t seen since freshman year check in on me while I was student teaching. Even the simple gesture of remembering my name and major made me feel like I was cared for and felt supported; I know that I could go to any of my professors for support and resources, which is something many can’t say about their colleges.
What I Hope to Accomplish After Graduation:
I want my classroom to feel representative of my students and a space where they can be themselves without the insecurity of being wrong or of their identity. In my student-teaching experience, I’ve noticed how my Spanish-speaking students feel comfortable enough to switch from English to Spanish knowing that I am bilingual or how my students of color acknowledge shared experiences as a POC myself. These minor details make a significant difference in the classroom, and if I can be a part of the change to increase representation in schools, I am more than happy to serve.