Rivera (‘23) teaches music at a K-8 school in Chicago and manages 11 classes. Currently, she teaches general music, but hopes to branch out by teaching choir, private lessons and organizing ensembles in the future.
During her senior year of college, Rivera filled her schedule with 18 credit hours. Rather than try to balance homework with a part-time job, she took her teaching license test in June, receiving it in July.
Rivera started a day later than the other faculty because her hiring process took longer than expected. Although she said she felt a little behind, she is doing her best and making the most of her time.
One of the biggest challenges Rivera and her coworkers have dealt with has been the language barrier between them and a large portion of their students.
“There’s a large chunk, I would say roughly a fifth of the students in the school only speak Spanish, and it’s not a bilingual school,” Rivera said.
Most teachers in the school do not speak Spanish, and Rivera knows very little. So, they get creative with communication.
Although it is a struggle to learn and teach with the language barrier, Rivera and her fellow teachers are determined to overcome these difficulties.
“We are all teachers because we want to help students learn, and we are going to do our best to do that no matter how long it takes us to figure that out,” Rivera said.
As a young teacher, Rivera feels a little out of place amongst her coworkers, but knows it will pass. With the support of Taylor University and her music education major, she has been able to use tactics she learned at college in her own classroom.
Rivera’s professors at Taylor and her student teaching opportunities have taught her how to adapt to different classroom situations and prepared her to be a well rounded teacher. She may be working through difficulties, but is ready and willing to be the Lord’s hands and feet.
“I will be able to be that light of Christ in my school and be the servant leader that Taylor trained me to be,” Rivera said.
One of Rivera’s favorite things about teaching music is watching the lightbulb of discovery flicker on in each child’s head as they grasp new concepts.
She loves the moment when a child steps out of their shell, engages in the classroom and applies the knowledge that she taught to them.
“They’re all of a sudden taking risks and trying to answer questions that they wouldn’t have been able to answer before, but they’ve learned and they were paying attention,” Rivera said.
Rivera rewards her students with treats for participating and being willing to voice their thoughts. Rather than feeding them the answers, she lets them challenge themselves. Her students may not grasp the new material right away, but their bravery for trying new things and their readiness to learn deserves a reward, she said.
As Rivera continues to persevere through times of struggle and times of joy, she keeps this in mind: “Blessed be the name of the lord in struggles and sunshine. In the hard things and the good things, God is always there and he is to be praised through it all.”