As a fifth-grade student, an educator told Sheyla Pulido Salazar ’23 that she would never have a career in the sciences, and she spent years exploring other interests as a result. As an undergraduate student, though, she volunteered as a chemistry and math tutor and was quickly lauded for her skills, which led her to set her sights on a career teaching those subjects.
Now a student in the University of Redlands School of Education and a resident substitute teacher at Jurupa Hills High School, Pulido Salazar’s dream of becoming a teacher isn’t far off. At Redlands, she is learning how to be an agent of change in the education system so she can prevent students from feeling deterred or discouraged as she once was.
“We didn’t have access to a lot of resources or tutoring, and there was a lot of division among students,” she says, remembering growing up in Fontana, California. “I chose the University of Redlands School of Education because of what it stands for. It’s apparent that the school wants to make change and is involved in the community.”
A first-generation college student in the Master of Arts in Education, Learning, and Teaching (MALT) program, Pulido Salazar is learning about curriculum designs and new approaches to respond to the complexities of modern teaching. She cites getting to know the members of her cohort as one of the most enjoyable aspects of her program thus far. They all have the same goal: to provide opportunities for their students.
But what does advocating for change and providing those opportunities look like? Pulido Salazar says that, in the Inland Empire and other places with large populations of students of color, educators must hold themselves accountable for what they’re teaching by introducing diverse perspectives and histories. Additionally, many students—and she was one of them—don’t know that scholarships are available; many assume they can’t afford additional education or other pursuits.
Supporting and assisting vulnerable populations is an ongoing effort, and Pulido Salazar feels well-prepared, thanks to the guidance she has received from School of Education faculty members. Professor Santos Campos has provided a surplus of resources—opportunities to attend alumni panels and learn from career educators, facilitating conversations about teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, and encouragement to come up with innovative lesson plans and approaches to classroom management. Professor Greg Hamilton facilitates in-depth conversations about inequities in the classroom, giving his students the opportunity to discuss their past experiences and the changes they want to make in their own classrooms.
Having access to knowledgeable and empathetic faculty members was an aspect of Pulido Salazar’s Redlands education she wasn’t expecting. “I’m surprised by how hands-on the professors are,” she says. “They truly give students the opportunity to have in-depth conversations about a variety of topics.”
All of these conversations and experiences contribute to Pulido Salazar’s goal of having her own classroom. She looks forward to watching her own students grasp concepts—a direct result of the skills she has honed at Redlands.
“I love seeing the lightbulb come on,” she says. “As a future chemistry and math teacher, I know that a lot of kids from low-income families are told they’re not good at those subjects. It’s a matter of scaffolding the material so that a student can understand it. To see them build confidence and understand a subject, and to know they’re carrying that confidence into other areas of their lives is the most rewarding part of teaching.”
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