Stephanie Castellanos

The University of Texas at Austin’s Teach for America recruitment team is continuing our 2017 Corps Member features! We’re highlighting some of the fantastic individuals who have signed on as corps members, such as Paulina Hernandez-Trejo, in order to shed some light on an organization that focuses on eliminating educational inequity once and for all.

This week’s featured member is Stephanie Castellanos. Steph is an International Studies senior. While at UT, she has been most notably involved in the Foundations Scholars Program, University Leadership Network, and as a research associate for the Family and Child Center for Well-Being in the School of Social work.

Steph will be a first-generation college grad. Her parents are from Mexico & she has three siblings. No one prepared her for college; therefore, she experienced culture shock her freshman year. Through her time as both a mentee and mentor in ULN & FSP, she has learned how to transition and how to work with other students. As each of her mentees has a unique personality, Steph says adpating to working with students with different needs will greatly prepare her for classroom next year. Her experience as a research associate has also prepared her for the classroom as she has learned a lot about the current resources and afterschool care initiatives in the RGV & other low-income schools.

Originally from Pharr, Texas, she grew up with a dual language program in her schools kindergarden through highschool. "In the valley, I want to find ways to promote bilingual education and improve the program itself. Knowing two languages betters you - you can connect with more people, are more efficient, it really is an enrichment program." When Stephanie came to UT, she was shocked to meet other students from the valley who did not grow up with this enrichment program & could not communicate effectively with some of their own relatives. It reiterated her passion for ESL and the notion of how important bilingual education is.

Steph will be teaching Bilingual Elementary in the Rio Grande Valley in the fall. "TFA has given me the opportunity to give back to my community and promote ESL opportunities to people who may not experience it otherwise."

After her two year commitment in the classroom, Steph hopes to attend grad school for education policy. This will combine her passion for TFA with her undergraduate major of International Relations. Long-term, she hopes to bring effective Bilingual learning to schools across the United States. "It is important to know how things work in the classroom & the issues that students are facing on the ground before implementing and improving educational inequality from the top down. After my hands-on experience, I hope to know how to properly address students needs through policy."  Of the application process, Stephanie says "I loved being able to tell my story. All of the pre-work articles were very interesting & thought-provoking. I especially enjoyed connecting with other students who will be doing TFA. I cannot wait for the real journey to begin!"   She also wants prospective students to "be prepared to get your hands dirty. Come into the program realizing that poverty is a real issue. Growing up in the valley, I’ve been apart of this low-income experience. If you did not live through this, have the right mentality because you will be facing real-world problems with families that really don’t have enough & you’re going to have to know how to handle this. Be ready for the unexpected & be ready to tackle these deep-rooted issues! Patience, humility, understanding, and passion are the most important qualities."

After her two year commitment in the classroom, Steph hopes to attend grad school for education policy. This will combine her passion for TFA with her undergraduate major of International Relations. Long-term, she hopes to bring effective Bilingual learning to schools across the United States. "It is important to know how things work in the classroom & the issues that students are facing on the ground before implementing and improving educational inequality from the top down. After my hands-on experience, I hope to know how to properly address students needs through policy."

Of the application process, Stephanie says "I loved being able to tell my story. All of the pre-work articles were very interesting & thought-provoking. I especially enjoyed connecting with other students who will be doing TFA. I cannot wait for the real journey to begin!" 

She also wants prospective students to "be prepared to get your hands dirty. Come into the program realizing that poverty is a real issue. Growing up in the valley, I’ve been apart of this low-income experience. If you did not live through this, have the right mentality because you will be facing real-world problems with families that really don’t have enough & you’re going to have to know how to handle this. Be ready for the unexpected & be ready to tackle these deep-rooted issues! Patience, humility, understanding, and passion are the most important qualities."

Jorge Galan