Jennifer K. Lopez (M.A., dual certification) | Teachers College Columbia University

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Jennifer K. Lopez (M.A., dual certification)

Jennifer K. Lopez (M.A., dual certification)
Life before TC
Like many American children of Spanish-speaking immigrants, Lopez learned at a young age to move fluidly between Spanish at home and English at school.  Her father was born in Colombia and came to the U.S. at age 23, and her mother emigrated from Ecuador at the age of 15. Lopez attended her father’s graduation from Mercy College, where he studied computer science. Her mother worked at Lopez’s elementary school, keeping a close eye on her progress.

“Education was one of those things that were so in my face, I didn’t even consider not going to college,” she recalls. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, “I started to be really exposed to the inequities in the system as to who makes it to that kind of university.” 

Why TC
Lopez entered Teachers College intending to teach in a bilingual classroom, and as a graduate of TC’s QUIERE program she is leaving with certification to do just that—as well as with certifications in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education.

TC Takeaway
At P.S. 75, on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where Lopez taught this past year, none of her second graders were classified as English Language Learners. Nevertheless several were bilingual or spoke almost no English. Lopez taught them all in English, but also did a lot to honor and encourage non-English speakers to share their language and culture in the classroom. After watching a young Latino boy begin to write in Spanish after initially concealing from his classmates the fact that his parents spoke Spanish at home, she came to believe that all children can thrive in a nurturing bilingual or multilingual environment – and also that English Language learners can deeply enrich a classroom of native English speakers.

What’s Next
Lopez returns to P.S. 75 next year and hopes someday to return to TC for a doctorate.  Meanwhile, she is happy to be teaching in an English-language classroom and “spreading the love of the Spanish language” to her students. “I really want to show multilingual people being multilingual is OK, and it’s actually a rich experience.”

Published Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2014