Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Erika Martinez enjoys several things about teaching – sparking the imagination, passing on her knowledge to others and potentially changing the lives of students.
But what she enjoys most about the job is the professional camaraderie among teachers.
“It’s like a family,” said Martinez, a bilingual master’s degree student in Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “The camaraderie is also a good way to also build continuity with the kids. If teachers work together, it’s much better for everybody, including the teachers themselves.”
Martinez said she got a taste of it last year when she interned for a Title I school in the Osborn School District in Phoenix.
“The teachers there were so dedicated to each other, which was refreshing to witness and experience, ” Martinez said. “This master’s program has prepared me more than I ever expected.”
Martinez, who will receive her master’s degree in elementary education on Dec. 16, spoke to ASU Now about her past experiences as a Sun Devil and what the future holds as she embarks on a teaching career.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study teaching?
Answer: Throughout my educational life, I was exposed to several great educators who genuinely enjoyed teaching and more so the impact they had on their kids’ lives, including mine. I noticed how the teachers supported each other and had built a tight-knit community. As a senior, I decided I wanted to join that community so I applied to attend ASU and earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I knew teaching was something I wanted to do in that moment, but after my first few semesters, I no longer thought I had what it took to be a great teacher so I changed my major. After graduation, my focus began to shift to my service in the Air National Guard as a financial technician. I loved helping my fellow airmen but part of me wanted to return to the path I first set out on four years prior. ASU had just offered a one-year master’s program and I knew it was time to pursue my dream once more. I knew how education has impacted my life, and how it provided the community I want to be a part of.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU?
A: I learned a lot of things this past year. However, the most important thing is that I now have the confidence and knowledge to be an educator. All of this was made possible due to the coursework, practicums, students, mentors, peers and professors.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: My journey at Arizona State University started in 2012 and I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2016. I chose ASU again for my master's because of the location and the program itself. Besides learning that the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College was nationally ranked, the length of the program and the description of the program met my needs. The master’s in elementary education with teacher certification at the Osborn School District was exactly a year, and the type of district that I would be doing my practicum in is the type of district that I would like to teach in after graduation.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I would advise three things: Make self-care a priority, build lifelong relationships with peers and other professionals and learn as much as you can.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?
A: Hayden Lawn at the Tempe campus. Besides being a great place to people watch, it is also close to study areas, food, and coffee!
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I plan on vacationing with my family to reward this year’s hard work, and prepare for the next mission, which is teaching full time. I hope to teach in a Title I school district with a Spanish dual-language program. The plan is to teach a couple of years and then get into administration or (becoming) a master teacher where I can help more students.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: The cost to earn a higher education has become increasingly expensive over the last two decades. The day I gained the opportunity to attend ASU was the day that I learned I would not have to worry about finances. A few months prior, I began the process of applying for college. I was hopeful about being admitted, yet doubtful on whether I was going to be able to afford tuition. I rode the bus to the public library every week and checked off the items on the priority tasks list on My ASU. One weekend, I was at a college workshop presented by College Depot at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix. During the workshop, the facilitator asked us to click on the Finances tab on My ASU. After clicking and scrolling down, I was in disbelief. I had received enough financial aid and scholarships to pay for all of my college expenses. I could not hold in the joy of being able to pursue my dreams. I excused myself out of the room, danced, cried and immediately called my parents. I could not wait to tell the world! Finances gave me access to higher education. If I had 40 million dollars or 10 dollars, I would fund educational expenses for as many people as possible; I would hope to fulfill someone’s dream.
Top photo: Erika Martinez poses in front of the fountain outside of Old Main on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now