Scholar Stories: Nancy Valdez Gainer

How do you use writing or art in your life?

 I have used writing for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I write for myself to process my thoughts and emotions, sometimes I write to heal, and sometimes I write poetry and short stories to capture pieces of my culture on the page. I draw inspiration from other writers and poets and also from art. I find that when I’m painting or sewing, it brings me a similar joy to the feeling I get when I am writing.  I think that the need to create is human and innate. 

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

Storytelling is something that has been done in my family for generations. My grandmother passed down family stories, songs, and riddles in Spanish to us when we were young. I learned that it’s important to preserve your culture, language and history. One way of doing this is by collecting your family stories. We all have stories. Our stories matter. 

What would you tell your younger self?

They say hindsight is 20/20. I would tell my younger self to be confident, know that who you are and where you come from are assets, trust yourself and don’t let others make you feel lesser-than. 

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

One thing I wish someone had told me when I first started teaching is that it is important to have a work-life balance. You can’t be the best teacher for your students if you aren’t taking care of yourself.  I also wish someone had told me that families will be your best allies. Forming meaningful relationships with your students and their families is one of the best things you can do as an educator.

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