Achieving My Lifelong Dream of Becoming a Teacher
by Bruni Hernandez
I am finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a classroom teacher. How? By earning my Bachelor’s Degree in one year while working full-time.
Today, after 10 years at Rocketship Brilliant Minds as a paraeducator and art enrichment coordinator, I get to stand in front of my very own classroom as a first-grade STEM teacher. As a Latina who lives in a working-class neighborhood of East San Jose, I represent many of the low-income students of color Rocketship Brilliant Minds serves. I am excited to continue to provide students with the inspiration and motivation to succeed in my new role.
The journey to get here wasn’t easy. The major barrier to full-time, professionally-paid teaching for many folks like myself is completing a B.A. program. I had tried for years to get my degree, but with working full-time and raising my children, all I gained were a few credits and student loan debt. Getting over a severe illness in 2019 was my wake-up call to finally go after my lifelong dream. With the support of Rocketship and our partnership with Rivet School, I was able to finally earn my degree while working full time.
Last school year was very busy for me. During the day, I was supporting students online with distance learning, supporting our families through Care Corps, and supporting students in facilitated distance learning on campus in the spring. Weekends and evenings, I was steadily working through the 60 projects I needed to complete to achieve my degree. My Rivet coach not only helped me with credit transfers at the beginning of my journey but also had weekly check-ins with me to keep me both accountable and motivated. I thrived in Rivet’s self-paced curriculum, achieving competency-based milestones within each project efficiently while having the space to immerse myself in what I was learning. Even though I didn’t master each project the first time, I was able to try again and really master the content with the guidance of my coach. This gave me a personalized learning experience where I was able to learn the way I learn best.
It was such a fulfilling learning experience that offered me both efficiency and flexibility. The latter was especially important when I lost my brother to COVID-19 and had to temporarily relocate to Houston for the summer to support my mother as she was recovering from COVID-19. I was able to pause my coursework and then start up again smoothly and efficiently with the help of my Rivet coach and Rocketship staff, allowing me to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in just one year. My Rivet coach and Rocketship continue to help me navigate the tangled web of teacher certification exams and paperwork post-graduation.
Since day one, I and other staff were told that Rocketship believes in the potential of every single one of our students and educators. Today, I know this to be true. They provided me with financial assistance so I would be able to complete the Rivet School program and finally enter the classroom as a fully-credentialed teacher. I am so proud of our 30 other Rocketship staff working towards their Rivet School degrees. I cannot wait to see even more Rocketeers join this program and achieve their postsecondary education goals and maybe even become a teacher like me.
As my son Dominic said at my Rivet School graduation, “Seeing how much my mom has done, how hard she’s worked for this, and how many kids she’s helped throughout her life to give her the experience to be a great teacher. All she needed was her BA and I’m so proud of her.” I am so proud to be a teacher – thank you for helping to make that possible.
Published on August 26, 2021