She’s the second-ever graduate of Bay Path to be accepted into the prestigious Teach For America program. How did Marisabel Santiago '14 make the grade?
When she was in high school, Marisabel Santiago ‘14 said that many of her teachers thought she should one day go into teaching.
“At the time, I didn’t think at all that this was a path I wanted to take,” she remembered.
What a difference a few years can make; this year, Santiago and Melissa Lora ‘13 are the first two Bay Path College graduates ever to be accepted into the Teach For America program. Less than 15 percent of those who apply are accepted. Santiago recently spoke about her decision to join the organization’s ranks.
Santiago was a strong student at the Law and Government Academy, part of the Hartford Public School system. At Bay Path, she studied criminal justice (her major) and psychology. She presumed to have all the answers… but, “my grades started to falter,” she admitted of her first year at college.
Quick to respond, she went into the tutoring program at the Catok Learning Commons. Seeing quick turnaround for her own grades, Santiago decided to pay it back: she started to tutor others. The impact upon her was profound.
“When you teach someone, there’s a part of you that you share,” she explained. “There’s no replacement for that. It’s an exchange that you both are going to carry for a lifetime.”
“If you don’t believe me, well, I’m pretty sure that if I ask you who your favorite teacher was in high school you will remember them,” she continued. “What they teach you is memorable. They are memorable.”
What sets her in good stead for teaching, she said, is both where she’s from and what she studied. She said Hartford is a low-income community. “Also we had a huge education gap of the people who were at the top of their class, and then there were the people struggling and on probation,” she explained.
In her interview with Teach For America, the subject of her college studies came up. To the recruiter, she had said, “there are many studies that underperforming kids in the third grade who don’t make the transition to reading fall through the cracks into a life of criminality.”
If you can address a root issue of learning, she continued, “or even have a teacher who is an advocate to divert them from that route, there’s a good chance they won’t spiral into the criminal justice system.”
Santiago stated her personal mission: “You have to be empathetic and sensitive when you speak to that type of child. For me, having the arsenal of my background and degree in this type of educational setting is perfect. I’d rather approach teaching as prevention, to make sure that kids don’t ever find themselves within the criminal justice system.”
Is she nervous about making the leap to the front of a classroom? Not really, she said. Her preferred geographic assignment will be in a borough of New York City, and after the uneasiness of residential expenses, teaching will be what she’s been preparing for all along.
“This is the perfect blend of everything I’ve worked up to until now,” she said.
Congratulations, Marisabel. You’re not just looking forward to becoming a teacher, but a leader.