The Author

 

Photo Credit: Columbia Spectator (Click through for original article)

Protesting at Counter-Rally Defending NYC Teachers and Students

 

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Panel with Julie Fain and Jesse Hagopian on the Fight Against High Stakes Testing

Panel with Julie Fain and Jesse Hagopian on the Fight Against High Stakes Testing

 

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The Basics:

Name: Stephanie Rivera
Age: 21 Years old
Education: 4th year Undergraduate Student, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ
Studying: Education, Political Science, English
Future Plans: Attend Rutgers Graduate School of Education to pursue K-12 Social Studies Teaching Certificate

Resume 

Other:

      • Co-Founder and Co-President of Rutgers 1st Undergraduate Organization focused on future teachers and education, Future Teachers Association
      • Research Assistant for Dr. Wallace“Examining the Effects of the Immigrant Rights Movement on Latino Political Attitude” through Rutgers Aresty
      • Youngest Candidate for New Brunswick’s Board of Education April 16th Election
      • TEDxNYED 2013 Speaker

Background:

To start off: I never imagined being the person I am today.

Let me give you a little quick synopsis of how I grew up. I was bullied all my life about my weight–165 pounds, 4 feet and 10 inches, at 13 years old. You get the picture. As most people can guess, I learned to hate myself–a lot. Value was put on what I looked like, I grew up believing, “It’s the outside that counts,” regardless of those supposed-to-be-sincere pep talks. I learned to be disgusted with who I am. I didn’t know how to properly deal with it, my family also criticized me for my weight. Barely a teenager, I was extremely vulnerable. With that being said, I wanted it to just stop, so I took the easy way out: just be nice to everyone, even the ones who tear you apart. I went along with the crowd, did what people told me to do, was extra nice, stayed quiet, in other words, disappearing was my comfort zone, my safe haven.

Who knew that fear would carry on with me until I was in college.

Aside from the psychological and physical drain it had on me, it drowned the voice out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I was outgoing. I tried to be funny, yes, I definitely did talk. But, I’m talking in regards to my mind and my thoughts. Yes, I did do very well in school, I studied hard, but rarely did I raise my hand, or ever really get engaged in class discussions. It was the constant fear of, “What if that’s wrong?” “What if that’s stupid?” “What if the teacher doesn’t agree?” I remember one of my friends even called me out on it–”You never have an opinion of your own, stop agreeing with everything I say.” I didn’t really think much about it, I was just, you know, “trying to be nice.” I was too concerned of people not being mean to me, I just wanted to be liked.

This past year I have broken free from this comfort zone.

Blogging has allowed me to openly share my thoughts, my opinions. It was no longer about people liking me, it was about doing what I love. The issues I initially wanted to bring exposure to was the focus, not the fear of not being liked. Still, to this very moment, I sometimes cannot believe how many people have thanked me for my blog. How many people have seen my blog, shared it with others. When I created this blog, I don’t know, I hoped it would get big, but never really expected it to. It is a unique and incomparable feeling when people start applauding you for your mind. For once in my life, I have learned to put value on my thoughts and my brain, rather than the way I look in the mirror. It is refreshing, and extremely empowering. Blogging has helped become so aware of particular issues and the truth, that I am so compelled and driven of exposing it, the fear to share them disappears.

I want to become a teacher, and of course, provide opportunities for students to empower themselves. But how could I have expected to do that if I couldn’t even empower myself? Finding my voice and the ability to value my mind’s ability to critically think is one of my most valuable achievements. It has helped recreate who I am, and become a better and stronger person–this is the type of teacher I want to be for my students.

11 thoughts on “The Author

  1. Pingback: How Blogging & Social Media Changed My LIfe « Teacher Under Construction

  2. Pingback: The “Other” Student Voice: Students For Education Reform « Teacher Under Construction

  3. Pingback: I Am A Student, and I Stand Against Students For Education Reform (SFER) « Cooperative Catalyst

  4. Pingback: The Author: Stephanie Rivera | Learn Teach Live

  5. Hi Stephanie!

    I couldn’t find your e-mail so I figured I’d just do this. Feel free to reject the comment but just wanted to contact you.

    I just heard your story today after someone posted it on my FB wall. You and I are following almost the exact same path. I too got involved in the education reform debate, started a blog, and recently decided to run for school committee in New Bedford, MA. E-mail me and let’s chat!

  6. Hello Stephanie. I just found your blog through the SUPE twitter feed and I must say your story is very compelling and not unlike my own…the only difference is I haven’t quite located my voice and that pivotal sense of self-empowerment yet…although I’m working towards it. I was also relentlessly bullied throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I also would get good grades, but would merely sit in class and not talk and not share my opinions. In high school, I internalized all that bullying and learned to hate myself and that manifested itself in different ways. Then college started and gradually came out of my shell in what was a long and painful process. Then in my junior year I took a philosophy of education class taught by this amazing teacher who taught me that my frustrations with school and the state of my educational life and more broadly our educational system were very real and very legitimate. He was a teacher who went against the grain, taught us to challenge the status quo and think about American public and higher education within a critical framework. Out of all my years of schooling, I can say with confidence that was the only class where in which I felt I had a voice, in which I felt empowered It was beautiful and inspiring, and tragic at the same time and most importantly it got me off the misguided track of studying to go to medical school. Now I’m about to graduate with a bio degree and starting next year I intend to go to grad school at Montclair State (where that professor was from) to get my MAT in K-12 Social Studies teaching. Now I devour all books about critical pedagogy, postformal psychology, constructivist learning and anything I can get my hands that is about teaching students to be empowered critical agents capable and willing of affecting political and social change in this country.

    Its refreshing and beautiful to find others who are like-minded and recognize the need for us students to fight for the integrity and public nature of public and higher education in America.

    Also I would love to get involved with SUPE if you guys are having any upcoming events in NJ or NYC. I am involved with a relatively new grassroots, activist organization called Rootstrikers (I’m part of the NYC chapter) which is fighting to get dirty money out of politics by taking concrete steps to advocate for publicly funded elections, the overturning of Citizens United,etc. The idea behind the name is that one can point to dirty money in politics being the root of a lot of the problems that America faces today including the privatization and corporatization of public and higher education. Our NYC chapter is very very small and we are trying to find ways to recruit new members. Being a student, I think its very important to connect with students and grassroots student movements and organizations such as yours which are fighting for the integrity of public education. I believe its important that we recognize how our separate organization’s individual issues affect each other, like how “dirty money” in politics influences the integrity of public education and vice versa. Ultimately I think solidarity and participation between different social movements is pivotal if we are going to achieve the goals we set out to achieve.

    Would you be interested in connecting with our organization? I think it would be mutually beneficial.

    • Hey Reflective Thinking! Sorry I’m getting back to you so late, I got your comment in the midst of finals season, so keeping track of whom I needed to get back to got pretty chaotic. Anyway, I’m so excited you came across my blog and found a few similarities–like you said, there is nothing like finding a like-minded person who shares similar passions and understandings. I’d love to see connect and get you in touch with our NYC SUPE Chapter, and look more into how Rootstrikers and SUPE can work together to build collective power against privatization and such. When you get the chance, please shoot me an e-mail (SRRivera92@gmail.com), and I think we’ll be able to take it from there :) Looking forward to hearing from you again!

  7. Hey…oh its not a problem…i just got finished with my finals as well and it was quite hectic….I did send you an email…I also sent one to the leader of your NYC chapter. the email address is sehsm@mail.com. My email is a partial reiteration of what I said in my comment (kind of a longer and more detailed pitch because at the time I didn’t know if you were convinced by my comment). I also mentioned an action we participated in today…but at this point I am a relatively unseasoned activist and as Rootstrikers is relatively unseasoned activist organization, compared to yours, I think its important to get in touch with other activist organizations and see what they’re doing and plan actions and meetings together etc. I will send you another e-mail detailing where NYC rootstrikers is at this point in time, and feel free to send me your ideas about how our two organizations can work together. Looking foward to hearing from you again as well :)

  8. Pingback: “This has seriously been the most indescribable past 48 hours of my life.” | Fred Klonsky

  9. School corporal punishment is still permitted in 19 states. A creative group of Ohio high school students is creating a short video on why kids want paddling to end. I’d love to send it to you when it is finished. Thanks.

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