The College of Education and Integrative Studies is a learning community focused on meeting the present and future needs of students in our communities. We educate students to become highly qualified and significant leaders in our society. We are committed to the principles of diversity, ethics and social justice, and life-long learning. Central to our mission are innovative and integrative thinking, reflective practice, collaborative action, and learning by doing.
Aspiring Teachers Aims to Empower the Next Generation of Students
Rachel Torres remembers playing school with her siblings when she was a child, but there was one caveat — she had to be the teacher.
“When they wouldn’t play with me anymore, I would teach my stuffed animal students,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I’d ask for things like white boards for Christmas.”
A senior majoring in liberal studies and examining credential programs at the College of Education & Integrative Studies, Torres is more passionate than ever about her chosen profession. For her, it’s all about the three E’s: empowering, educating and engaging.
“I want to have an impact on students’ lives and teach them how to be lifelong learners,” she says.
Torres wanted to gain teaching experience before graduation and has been tutoring for the past few years, both with a tutoring company, and for school districts. Now, she’s learning how to manage a classroom as a first-grade teacher at The Learning Connection (TLC), an after-school program offered through the Pomona Unified School District. Each day, she helps her 25 students with homework and reinforces what they learned through hands-on activities.
It’s been an eye-opening experience with rewarding moments, but sobering ones as well. Some students tell her about the challenges they’re dealing with: their parents are being deported or incarcerated or their lives are unstable. Their stories drive her to create a welcoming, safe atmosphere for learning.
“I can’t make their lives better at home, but I can make school and my classroom a space where they can come and be themselves,” she says. “I want them to know that this is your time to be somebody, to learn, have an impact and to make a difference in the world. There are a lot of students who feel like they can’t do that at home.”
Preparing lesson plans can be time-consuming, but she knows it’s an opportunity to implement what she’s learned into the classroom.
“The students keep me going,” Torres says. “Seeing the impact that I’m having on them, that they’re having on each other and on me. Part of teaching is knowing the students will teach you too — and that’s my favorite part.”
President's Council Scholar Conferral Dinner, October 2016
Leading by Example
Torres isn’t just a role model for her students, but also for her peers.
Since her first year, she’s been actively involved on campus: everything from club president to student assistant supervisor at the BRIC to volunteer coordinator for an elementary school cleanup. She is in her second term as CEIS Council President and third year as a resident advisor in residential housing.
“I love that job because I’m able to help connect them with resources on campus, then see how much they’ve grown,” she says. “They walked in looking lost and now they’re in a club, have a job and are doing all these great things.”
Torres knows that she wouldn’t be a leader on campus or in the classroom without the help of mentors. One of those mentors, the chair of the liberal studies department, Christina Chavez-Reyes, noticed Torres when she was a freshman.
"I was immediately impressed by Rachel’s tenacity and commitment to becoming an educator and, eventually, a school administrator,” Chavez-Reyes says. “Over the years, I have discovered these traits are the cornerstone of her leadership ability. She takes on challenges, cultivates a team culture and is open to becoming an effective leader through mentorship.”
Torres also credits her parents for instilling core values and encouraging her to achieve.
“They have empowered me to dream big and to work hard, never settling,” Torres says.
Her consistent commitment to academics and extracurricular activities was recognized at the department and university levels. Last spring, she was honored by the liberal studies department with the Keith & Sheila Goldring McCoy Scholarship. She joined an elite group of students when she was selected a President’s Council Scholar in the fall.
Given to only 20 undergraduates each year, President’s Council scholarships are based on academic achievement and contributions to the community.
“Everything that I’m doing is worth it to me for its own reasons, but winning that scholarship reinforced that getting involved in our college means something,” she says. “Being at the awards banquet was amazing because you see that there is so much greatness at Cal Poly Pomona.”