Making a difference
Recent Berry College grad Jennifer Cortez is spreading the joy of learning to children and adults in the Galapagos Islands.
From the start, the 2018 grad knew she wanted to be a teacher but not just any teacher. Jennifer wanted her teaching to make a difference, to matter.
The summer before her senior year at Berry, Jennifer traveled to Costa Rica with Dean of Education and Human Sciences Jackie McDowell and seven other students to teach English to elementary school children. What stood out to Jennifer the most, was the joy and excitement of the children during the lessons.
During her high school career, her grandparents’ service in the Peace Corps cultivated a passion within Jennifer. But due to a neck injury, she could not serve in the Peace Corps.
Jennifer’s family resides in Ecuador, which played a large role in her connections and choosing to teach in the Galapagos Islands. In 2016, she became a citizen of Ecuador, after visiting her family to celebrate her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. While visiting, she traveled to the Galapagos Islands and spent a week with Mayor Leopoldo Bucheli of Santa Cruz and his family. The mayor extended to her an offer to come back and teach after she graduated.
After graduating in May 2018, Jennifer returned to teach six English classes ranging from intermediate to advanced with children and adults for five months.
“My biggest takeaways from the trip are the confidence I gained in myself,” Jennifer says. “I was so nervous to be fully independent so soon after Berry, but I quickly realized I am stronger than I thought and capable of handling and achieving great things. Anywhere I go I have the potential to make a difference because there is poverty everywhere and everywhere there is a need for passionate teachers.”
Jennifer hopes to return to the Galapagos Islands to continue teaching and is tutoring students to save money for her travels.
Update: Jennifer has accepted a job with Gwinnett County Schools to save for her next teaching abroad trip.
Story by senior Jordan Roach