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Photo by Natalie Ruiz

Natalie Ruiz: Educator in the Making

I interviewed my wonderful sister about her experiences and feelings preparing for her teaching career, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her Campus (HC): Can you introduce yourself?

Natalie Ruiz (NR): My name is Natalie Ruiz. I am currently in my second year studying elementary education at Florida International University. I am also an active member of the FIU chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society for Education. In my free time, I enjoy yoga, Pilates and spending time with friends and family.

HC: What inspired you to want to teach?

NR: It was actually two of my favorite high school teachers who inspired me to teach. My Algebra teacher showed me how a professional educator can shape the way students learn concepts effectively. She also taught us how being caring towards students makes a world of a difference in our learning experience. My physical science teacher, however, showed all of that and more; he showed me how effective teachers can reach students not only in the classroom but outside the classroom as well. Mr. Burke always showed passion in his subject area and concern for students’ problems. He was active in the church community and committed a lot of time and service to those around him. He even fostered one of his own students, taking this student under his wing. Mr. Burke, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. However, his legacy lives on today and inspires me still. These two professors are the reason I plan to earn a science education subject area certification after I finish my current degree.

HC: How has teaching and learning to teach changed in the current pandemic?

NR: Learning to teach has been significantly different since the pandemic started. For me, field experience switched from observing classroom dynamics and conducting miniature lessons in the classroom to predominantly conducting video observations through YouTube. For my peers, based on previous anecdotes, field experience and student teaching has been conducted through virtual conference software—like Zoom or Google Classroom—instead of in the physical classroom.

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HC: What are your teaching career hopes and plans?

NR: My plans to extend my teaching career are to earn an additional certification(s) and teach a science subject area at the secondary level, preferably Biology. I have also considered teaching Culinary Arts in the far future. I hope that soon enough I will be able to give a hands-on learning experience to future students in order to cultivate a more active learning environment.

HC: What does teaching mean to you NOW after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

NR: After the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching to me means knowing how to maintain a flexible curriculum and “classroom” structure.  It means understanding how to hold myself and my students accountable for fulfilling our responsibilities in spite of tough circumstances. It means learning new ways to motivate and excite students about the subject material at hand. It means understanding that a student may be dealing with a relative at home that is struggling with the virus. It means understanding that mental health has been impacted because of the ongoing pandemic. COVID-19 has changed a lot for everyone, and education should acclimate to this.

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Nicole Ruiz is a junior at Florida State University majoring in Marketing and minoring in Communication. She is originally from Miami, Florida. Nicole loves writing and discovering new music!
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