Head of the Class
Head of the Class
“The secret of education is respecting the pupil.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nicole Garcia teaches language arts at Washington High School in South Bend, Ind. She was placed there as a student teacher during her senior year at Saint Mary’s College and knew it was where she wanted to continue her teaching career.
“My goal has always been to work in a diverse, urban setting,” says Garcia, who also coaches girls’ track at Washington. “I will admit it’s not always the easiest environment for a teacher. You are working with students who don’t have support systems away from school, and many who don’t even have basic necessities like healthy food and a safe place to live. In situations like this, you really need to meet the students where they are; to be able to relate to them on a personal level and understand their culture and circumstances before they will learn from you.”
Garcia says that, while nothing could have readied her for some of the particularly intense classroom moments that arise, Saint Mary’s did a phenomenal job of preparing her for most of her daily challenges. “I received the best instruction in curriculum design, teaching methods, and service learning,” says Garcia, who was told by her graduate advisor at Xavier University that her undergraduate portfolio contained master’s-level work. “I have seen other student teachers come through the doors at Washington who have never even developed a thorough lesson plan or entered a school before their last semester of college. At Saint Mary’s, you’re in the classroom almost from the get-go, and you’re in there as both observer and teacher.”
Garcia graduated in 2004 with an English Literature major and a minor in secondary education. She also got involved with the Center for Women's InterCultural Leadership (CWIL ) at Saint Mary's, which encourages students to see themselves as agents for social change.
She believes that teaching is her calling, and while she may not be able to reach every student every day, Garcia never feels defeated. “I had one of the most amazing moments last week during a poetry reading,” explains Garcia. “We sat in a circle and everyone read a poem from their poetry anthologies that they had created at the end of our poetry unit. Some of their poetry was so profound, so deep, so inspiring. It made me believe with all my heart that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.”