Corina Perez is a teacher at AF University Prep High.
My story is so close to the stories of so many others I’ve heard before. As a 14-year-old going to school in Chicago, I was sort of a teacher’s pet. I would notice that my friends weren’t getting the same good grades that I was, and they’d say they weren’t as smart. Even then, I knew that wasn’t true. If we were in class and I would see my friends weren’t getting something, I would try to re-teach them the lesson. The reason was simple: my friends deserved to know they were smart. And I wanted them to love school, especially STEM, an area people tend to struggle with often.
That was when I knew I would become a teacher. In fact, I started my teaching career at the same high school I attended. In 2019, I moved to New York and joined the team at AF University Prep. I came here because I wanted to experience a city that wasn’t too different from Chicago, but completely different at the same time. It was important to me to teach the Black and Brown community. I am puertorriqueña, Black and Latina, and I know how important it is for students to have representation in the classroom, especially in a subject like 10th grade chemistry.
There are not enough of women—especially women of color—in science. That needs to change. And, that’s why I decided I had to give back and teach this subject. My students love science. The remote experience has been challenging, because the most fun part of science is the hands-on experience of doing labs. Thankfully, there are so many skilled computer tech people who have created simulations and 3-D models online. We’re still exploring concepts and collecting data. I see my students paying attention and growing their genuine curiosity for all things science.
I want to see more girls and more people of color pursue careers in STEM. Even more than that, I want to see them embrace what science can teach us. For me, I feel like too often in the Black, Latinx and POC communities, we feel like asking questions in class is a sign of weakness – but it isn’t. The smartest people ask questions all the time. And that’s what science reveals. Failure is important and necessary.
I love that, as their science teacher, I get the chance to teach kids that it is OK to fail. And I can help show them how they can succeed.
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