Wendy Bermudez: Giving Back Through Bilingual Education
Published in Inside - Volume XVII, No. 2
By Patricia Lamiell
As an Urban Studies student at Barnard College, Wendy Bermudez tutored preschool children through a program called “Jumpstart for Young Children.”
“My preschool was actually located in Harlem,” Bermudez, 23, recalls. “I would walk past TC every day before heading to work. I said, ‘I’m going to go there one day,’ and so I started working towards that.”
Bermudez, who entered the Master’s Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education this fall, knows what it’s like to attend a school where you don’t speak the predominant language. She was born in El Salvador and moved with her family to Long Island when she was eight. Since she didn’t speak any English, she was placed in a dual-language, bilingual program. One day the instruction was in English, the next day in Spanish – and Bermudez says she improved in both languages.
“I feel like that program really helped me, in terms of how I felt about school and my education,” Bermudez says. “It was very empowering, because I didn’t have to forget my culture; I didn’t have to forget Spanish. I learned subjects through Spanish first, and then I started learning English. It was an additive bilingual education model.”
Bermudez formed a bond with a teacher who was also Salvadoran. “She was my role model,” Bermudez recalls. “I wanted to be her, and I’ve always remembered her and how much she impacted my life. I guess I want to be that to other children.”
Bermudez is the first person in her family to go to college, and, although her parents championed her at every step, she found Barnard on her own in a big book at her high school. She had always wanted to live in New York City, so when she was accepted, the decision was easy.
At TC, “every class that I take has meaning,” Bermudez says. “I feel like I’m learning what I need to learn so that I can go out into society and do something fulfilling with my life.”
Her professors in the Bilingual/Bicultural Education program are “very knowledgeable in their field,” she says, but what really shines through is their passion for education. “They are very caring and very supportive, especially of teachers. They really understand the struggles that teachers go through every day, and I feel like they will be there with me for the next two years, supporting me in my job.”
For Bermudez, there’s no doubt what that will be: “I want to get a job in New York City and work in a classroom as a bilingual education teacher.”