Stephani Lopez Rodriguez MAT’19

Photo of Stephani Lopez Rodriguez MAT’19

Name: Stephani Lopez Rodriguez MAT’19

Hometown: Bronx, New York

Academics: master of arts in teaching

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Campus involvement: Graduate assistant for Professional and Graduate Education

Proudest accomplishment at Mount Holyoke: My proudest accomplishment was when I was interviewed by my colleagues about my work with English-language learners. This was incredibly important to me because I believe that advocacy is at the forefront of working with this particular population of students. More often than not, English-language learners are put on the back burner when major legislative decisions are made about education, and they are often overlooked in the classroom.

Being able to talk about my students allowed me to shed light on how incredibly special they are and just how much they deserve to receive the same access to education as other students. I was also delighted to debunk certain myths around teaching this population and the importance of having a mentor when navigating a new career.

A place or an experience you will miss at Mount Holyoke: The experience that I will miss the most at Mount Holyoke is the time I spent working in the Professional and Graduate Education office. In a lot of ways, it has been my home away from home. Everyone in that office is incredibly hardworking and I’m appreciative for the time they’ve taken out of their day to ask how I am and to offer their support through encouraging words. My time in this program would not have been the same without the time spent in that space surrounded by people who truly believe in me.

How a close connection with a faculty member has shaped you: I am incredibly grateful for all the faculty members that I have met throughout my time at Mount Holyoke. All of them have taught me something unique and have shaped me not only as a student, but as also an educator. One particular faculty member who stands out is Alicia Lopez in the ESS/ELL licensure program, my professor and supervising practitioner in my practicum. As a Latina and the first person in my family to attend graduate school, I initially found myself feeling lonely and craving a connection with someone who understood the position I was in, someone who could serve as hope for the future.

Thankfully, I was able to find that connection with Alicia. I am in constant awe of her as an educator and how seamlessly she integrates educational theory with practice. She has provided me with constant support and never fails to walk the talk. She has influenced me to be more thoughtful and intentional, and to always dig deep to find the answers to tough questions.

Course that surprised you, or that you thought you might not like: The Process of Teaching and Learning: Developing Literacy in Early Childhood And Elementary Schools, taught by Tamera Sullivan-Daley. At first, I wasn’t sure how relevant or applicable this course would be, given my focus on middle schoolers and because the rest of the students in the class were pursuing elementary licensure. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The skills that I learned in that class targeted a nuanced sub-population of English-language learners known as SLIFE, or students with limited/informal education. They are often the most vulnerable and require a lot of support. Knowing the specific skills necessary to fill those gaps in learning has been extremely helpful in my practicum. I’m really glad I took that class.

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: My practicum experience at Amherst Regional Middle School has been both a challenging and transformative experience. Prior to this experience, I had only worked with native Spanish-speaking students, which was within my comfort zone because I’m bilingual in both English and Spanish. In Amherst, the population of English-language learners is incredibly diverse.

For example, in just one class of students, there were six countries and five languages represented. Because I’ve been in such a diverse environment, I have really been able to put theory into practice and see the use of different methods and strategies unfold. I have a deep respect for my students and am in constant awe of their growth. The biggest takeaway from this experience is that in order to teach, you must lead with love. There are no easy days when you’re a teacher but every day is worth it if you intentionally choose to love your students every day you are in front of them.

Future plans: I plan to teach English as a second language at a middle or high school next year. My hope is that one day I can help develop curriculum for English-language learners on a wide scale.