by Merari Boffill' 18
From a very young age, my mom and grandparents instilled in me that college was the answer to attaining a good life. They didn’t want me to repeat their lives—lives filled with intense labor and immense stress because no matter how long or hard they toiled, they could never make ends meet. I heard my grandparents’ stories of long hours spent picking fruits and vegetables in the Texas heat for just enough pay to survive, and I witnessed my single mother’s constant worry of being unable to provide for me and my younger sister. Their experiences brought them to think of education as the “way out”—the way out of poverty and the lifestyle my family and many others in my small hometown of Elsa, Texas, had felt trapped in for generations. Thus, they encouraged my efforts in school. They made sure I understood that college was not an option. College was my way out.
As I progressed through school, I gained opportunities simply by doing well in classes and participating in extracurricular activities. For instance, I received college credit during high school by passing AP exams, and I traveled on all-expenses-paid trips by competing in and serving as a state officer for the Texas Association of Future Educators. Most importantly, however, because of my dedication to academics, I graduated in the top 10 percent of my senior class, which ensured my automatic acceptance to any public Texas university. These opportunities ignited my interest in education as a career path.
Although I was a first-generation college student, deciding to attend Texas A&M University was not difficult. My ultimate concern in choosing a university was the amount of financial assistance I would receive. Thankfully, Texas A&M offered me scholarships including a Century Scholarship, Regents’ Scholarship and the Mildred K. Leitz Scholarship in the College of Education and Human Development. These made an incredible difference in my life, and I hope that through teaching, I can positively impact the lives of my future students the way the donors of these scholarships greatly impacted mine.
I am most grateful for Texas A&M’s effect on my family—particularly on my younger siblings. My sister Carmen ’21 is now a sophomore interdisciplinary studies major at Texas A&M, while my 10-year-old brother Manny is already determined to become an Aggie too. Because of the opportunities afforded by a good education, my siblings and I can break the cycle of poverty that has plagued my family for generations.
I graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on fourth through eighth grade language arts and social studies. Through its curricula, the College of Education and Human Development prepared me to teach students of all types, gave me insight into the best teaching methods, and further solidified the importance of education that my mom and grandparents made clear to me long ago.
I am passionate about teaching because I understand the crucial role education plays in the lives of students and in society, since educational gaps create some of our nation’s most serious societal problems. Education can not only shape students’ minds, but also has the potential to shape their entire lives. There is so much aside from book learning that can be gained from the classroom: hope, freedom and chances.
Education was my way out, and I will let other students know that it can be their way out too. I will be there to let them know that through education, they can be anything they want to be and live any life they want to live. That, I think, is the true responsibility of our nation’s educational system and teachers everywhere.
Currently, the average debt of a College of Education and Human Development graduate is $23,000—a number the college hopes to cut in half through private scholarship support.
The College of Education and Human Development is home to more than 7,000 students and is the premier teacher prep program in Texas. Faculty and graduates of the college work in 211 of 254 Texas counties. The school is the state’s No. 1 producer of bilingual educators and math, science, and English and language arts teachers. The college is also the No. 6 producer of special education teachers. Most Aggies pursuing a teaching path log approximately 700 classroom hours during college and secure job placements before they graduate. The college’s graduates have a 25 percent higher teaching retention rate over a five-year period than the national average.
To earn a teaching certification, students must pass both a pedagogy and professional responsibilities exam—instruction in how to teach—as well as a content exam for their desired grade and subject. Those who want to teach at a high school level must also get a degree in their discipline.
To increase the number of certified teaching graduates in the state of Texas, the college is developing cross-campus partnerships that will enable more students to add a teaching certification to their Texas A&M degrees without extending their degree time. “We’re making it easier for Aggies from all disciplines to find their pathway to becoming a teacher,” said Michael de Miranda, department head of teaching, learning and culture. The college already has partnerships with the colleges of science and engineering and is working to build others across campus.
“We cannot emphasize enough how crucial and critical the role of preparing teachers is to the state, nation and world,” said Dean Joyce Alexander. “Aggie teachers are courageous and fearless. They are taking on a big job for the rest of us. Our graduates are passionate and dedicated in keeping with the Aggie spirit, well-prepared in their content knowledge of subjects, and have a strong preparation in pedagogy.”
To keep up with changing classroom technologies, the college’s faculty are also leading fearlessly by gaining new insights about teaching through research. Notable achievements include the development of programs that help with elementary-level reading comprehension and the development of an eye-tracking software that shows where and what people focus on to understand how reading can be improved. “The educator of the 21st century looks much different than that of 50 years ago,” said de Miranda. “We have to constantly evolve to stay at the forefront of our discipline and to ensure that we meet the needs of future generations.”