Scholar Stories: Christina Almaraz Ortiz

How do you use writing or art in your life? 

I had an amazing English teacher in high school, who inspired us to create a book about our life. The project consisted of a timeline and a crest that represented us. Then, we took our time to develop our life story, writing about who we were and everything that mattered to us.  

As I reflect on this project, our teacher gave us the opportunity to value life, to honor our family, record our traditions, and share our interests, dreams and goals. Till this day, I value writing about family experiences, celebrations and documenting memories, shared by my mother and family members.  Thanks Ms. Gonzalez, for creating a love for writing about our life journey. She would be proud that I still have my book.  

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

Growing up, we were taught to value family and education. My parents did not have the same educational opportunities, like we did. As of a matter of fact, my father completed the first grade to support his family.  In high school, my mother dropped out of the 11th grade and remembers speaking to the counselor and all she heard was to turn in her books.  Listening to their stories always saddened me, because I questioned why no one took the time to encourage to continue and advocate for them. 

Because of my father, I always wanted to be a teacher and it began with the chalkboard he bought me when I was five years old.  When I began my educational career, it was a huge milestone for us. But I knew that it would take dedication and commitment to the students and families I served. My goal was to support students and be the champion they needed to encourage them to be the best they could be. In the summer, I joined the Migrant Program, where I was able to teach in the homes of our families.  The experience allowed me to focus on getting to know my families and understand where they came from. 

Now as I reflect on my journey, I thank my parents for being there for us and teaching us to advocate for our education and opportunities. I definitely would not be where I am today, if it were not for my father and mother. 

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to forgive. Forgiveness is good for your soul and therapeutic for your heart. 

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

My advice to teachers is to get involved in your school community.  Sponsor an organization or club that will allow you to get to know your students outside the classroom. Be the one to organize learning adventures outside of school, creating memorable moments for kids. Know that you can open the doors to a future that they never imagined or discover a talent they never knew they had.  You will get to hear their stories and learn about what they worry about, what they love and what they value in life. Believe me, it makes a difference in supporting their needs.  YOU become the advocate they need to be young leaders.

Something else you want to share?

Throughout my career, I have come across strong, inspiring women who have taught me to be vocal, be proud of where we come from, and honor our families and communities.   I am grateful for the relationships we have built and the passions we have for our work and communities. We must continue to support each other and guide our young girls to do the same.   Our legacies will continue to prosper roots in our communities. Let us lead the way to support our women, children and families. 

Never doubt the power of women!

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