The amazing story of Jackie Barrera Gonzales who attended Nuestro Mundo elementary school as kid and now she is one of the teachers at her beloved elementary school
Jackie, since she was in the first grade at Nuestro Mundo Community School, dreamed of being a primary school teacher and after graduating from the University, she wanted to be a teacher at the same school where she had studied. Her dream came true because after graduating from UW-Madison in June, she managed to be appointed third-grade teacher at the elementary school she attended Nuestro Mundo Community School as a child. In this way, as the saying goes: “Where there is a will there’s a way” it became true one more time.
Jackie Barrera Gonzales and her family
Q. Tell me your full name and where you and your family are from?
A. My name is Jackie Barrera Gonzales and I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and my family is from Mexico.
Q. Before starting your great adventure and achieving your professional degree from UW-Madison, what was your world like (BEFORE)? What did you do? Where did you live?
A:I was born in Madison, WI and this is where I have lived my entire life. When I was little I went to elementary school, Nuestro Mundo Community School, which is a dual immersion school here in Madison. I was part of the second group of students to attend the school and it was there that I fell in love with education and began my dream of one day becoming a teacher and returning to teach in Nuestro Mundo. I attended Sennett Middle School and La Follette High School where I was able to continue with the dual immersion program and learn in English and Spanish.
Q. What event, reason or motive prompted you to embark on this adventure of studying at UW-Madison to obtain your professional teaching degree?
A:In high school, I applied for the PEOPLE program, which is a program that helps prepare its students to develop the necessary skills to be successful in college. The program does not guarantee admission to the University of Madison Wisconsin, but it does provide students with the resources and support needed to apply to college. It also offers a four-year scholarship to students who are accepted to the University of Madison, Wisconsin.
In sixth grade, I was accepted into the PEOPLE program and that motivated me to do my part and be successful in school so that I could increase my chances of being accepted to the University of Madison, Wisconsin after I graduate from high school. In 2018, I graduated from La Follette High School and was accepted to the University of Madison, Wisconsin in the elementary education program.
Q. Before launching into the adventure, what made you hesitate? What excuses or pretexts did you have in your mind?
A: Before entering college, my dad was deported and had to return to Mexico. This was a very difficult thing to navigate and it was tough having to move into a dorm in college and not being able to be with my family while we went through some big changes. Sometimes I thought it would be better to quit school and go to work so I could help my mom financially. This was something that impacted my mom, my sisters and I in different ways, but thanks to God and my family who supported us when we needed help the most, we were able to move forward.
Q. Who was your mentor or tutor? Someone who encouraged and influenced you, advised you, guided you to continue with this adventure of studying at UW-Madison to obtain your teaching degree?
A:During the four years I was in college, my unconditional supportive mentor was my PEOPLE program mentor named MollyJo Bautch. I remember that after the first day of classes at the university, I walked into her office almost crying telling her that I didn’t want to continue and that I wanted to leave school instead. Although I was stressed and sad, she kept a positive attitude and told me that the next 4 years were going to be difficult, but that I was capable of being successful and achieving my goal of becoming a teacher. From the first day I met her, MollyJo was nothing less than someone I could go to talk to about anything, good, bad, support or advice. MollyJo was always willing to listen and gave me her time no matter how pressed for time she was. Although MollyJo no longer works for the PEOPLE program, she still asks me how I am and continues to support me with what I need, for which I will always be very grateful.
Q. What was the FIRST strong barrier/challenge you had to overcome in this adventure of studying at UW-Madison to get your teaching degree?
A: The first barrier I had to face was the lack of diversity at the university and the change in environment. Although I have always lived in Madison, Wisconsin, the communities I was a part of growing up are very different from the college community. The University of Madison Wisconsin is made up of white students, with only a small percentage of students from other cultures and races. As I mentioned, I was always around students and teachers who looked like me, being part of a dual immersion program, so adjusting to the culture of the university was very difficult.
One thing that helped me navigate this difficulty was finding small communities that made the university feel a bit smaller. Some of the communities I was a part of were the PEOPLE program student community, my sorority, Kappa Delta Chi National Sorority, Inc., and the community of students earning a certificate in Chicano/Latino studies.
Q. What other challenges did you face and had to overcome, who helped you and in what way?
A: Another challenge that I unfortunately had to face during my college career was the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, I missed half of my second semester in 2020 and when I started the elementary education program, I missed my first semester of teaching practice due to visitors not being allowed on campus. This means that I did not have the opportunity to work with a teacher to shadow her, the second semester was a little better although my internship had to be virtual, but it gave me the opportunity to work with high school students.
Q. What was your biggest FEAR or thing that caused you anxiety in this adventure?
A: I think my fear was adapting to the university environment and its size. I had always said that I wanted to attend a small college with small class sizes and outside of Wisconsin, but I soon realized that I couldn’t stand being away from my family. So for this and other reasons, I made the decision to attend the University of Madison, Wisconsin and face the obstacles in order to earn my elementary teaching degree.
Q. How did you prepare for the final exam, how and what kind of exam was it? Easy? What does it consist of?
A: Although I did not have a final exam, I did have to create a portfolio about my experiences teaching in the classroom and give a presentation about my experiences in the education program at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. This was a bit stressful because it was something I had to complete during the semester while I was doing my internship in the classroom, so in addition to having to plan lessons and keep an eye on all my other responsibilities, I had to be spending time on my portfolio. After graduating from college, I had to continue teaching and taking my own class at the college at the same time. I will take my final required test in order to receive my teaching license in early June.
Q. How did you feel when you received your professional title as a teacher? Describe all the details of what you felt and more importantly all the experiences (good, bad, lessons, happy moments) when you completed this entire program? Gratitude? Nostalgia for the trip you came to make? Happiness of having discovered a new person in yourself?
A: Being at the graduation ceremony and receiving my degree, I couldn’t believe it. From the time I was in the first grade, I always said that I would become an elementary school teacher and that I would graduate from the University of Madison, Wisconsin; so having done it, it was something very incredible for me. All my family, my friends, and even past students congratulated me and were very happy for me. This was a moment that humbled me and reminded me to give thanks for all the blessings I have in life.
Q. How did your closest family receive you (your parents, siblings, neighbors, close friends); what was the impact on your personal and professional life in obtaining this professional license as a teacher? How does it feel to have all this new knowledge and more importantly this new wisdom that only life can teach us?
A: My parents, my sisters, and my whole family are very proud of me. They are the ones who have always supported me and the ones who give me the motivation to keep going. My parents came to this country hoping to give us opportunities that perhaps they did not have in Mexico, and I never took that for granted, and I will always be grateful for their sacrifices, because thanks to them, I was able to make this dream come true. .
Q. What is your job now, what does it consist of, functions and responsibilities?
A: I am very happy to say that in the fall, I will be a third grade teacher at the elementary school I attended as a child, Nuestro Mundo Community School.
Q. What is your direct or indirect development with the Latino community?
Answer: I have always stayed very close to people in my community, in college, I became a sorority sister, Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc., which is an organization that was founded by Latinas, but the organization is not exclusively for Latinx people, but is an organization that promotes diversity and welcomes everyone. This organization focuses on serving the Latinx community with community services and academic support for its members. Also, during the four years I was in college, I was part of the community of students who received a certificate in Chicano/Latino studies. This community is also made up of students from different cultures and races, but they all support each other and make the university feel more welcoming. Finally, working at Nuestro Mundo Community School, I have had the opportunity to work with students who share my language and culture, and students who are from different cultures, which is the most beautiful way to learn, valuing the differences of others.
Q. What is your message to the Latino community about reaching a goal and shining like a star?
A: My message to the Latinx community about achieving a goal is that you have to be your own cheerleader. You can have the support of the whole world, but if you don’t believe in yourself, it will take you much longer to achieve what you want to achieve. Create your goals, make a plan and take time to meet people who can help you reach those goals. Always do your best and no matter how difficult things get, never give up because it will not be easy, but it will always, always, always be worth it and you will be proud of everything you accomplished. And do not be afraid to ask for help from others, that the achievement of one is the achievement of all.