Alumni Spotlight: Priscilla Serrano, ’17
This article is reprinted from the Spring 2018 issue of Aquinas Magazine.
By Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen, O.P., Ed.D.
Priscilla Serrano, a 2017 graduate of Aquinas College, might be a first-year teacher, but she is already an award winner two times over! The first award came from Aquinas College right before her graduation; the second was presented by Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools before she had finished her third month of teaching.
In 2017, Priscilla was named the recipient of the Saint Dominic Teacher of Truth Award. Given annually by the faculty of the School of Education, the award honors a student who exemplifies those professional and personal qualities which comprise the goals of the Aquinas teacher formation program.
In conferring the award, Sister Mary Anne, Dean of the School of Education, remarked that each Aquinas graduate “is prepared to embrace the calling to make a difference in the lives of the young people they will teach in the years to come.” Priscilla is committed to making that difference, and her extraordinary efforts were recognized by her colleagues at Paragon Mills Elementary School. They nominated her for the Metro “Out of the Box” Award, which she won in October.
Priscilla is passionate about the power of teaching. A first generation Mexican-American, she credits her parents for instilling in her the desire to learn which, in turn, led to her desire to teach. She explains, “Both of my parents had to drop out of middle school due to poverty. My dad had to help out on the family farm, and my mom’s family simply could not afford to send me to school (since school in Mexico was free only up until 6th grade). I was taught to value and make the most out of my education. I went into teaching knowing that I wanted to be a part of what can positively impact the lives of kids who live in poverty, especially those who are new to this country.”
The student body of Paragon Mills is comprised of children who come from over 30 language groups, many of whom are recent immigrants; Priscilla’s classroom mirrors this rich diversity. One of her favorite memories of this year is the first time one boy in her class spoke to her. A refugee and a new English language learner, he did not interact or speak with anyone for the first week of school. Toward the end of the second week of school, he spoke his first full sentence as he said good-bye at the end of the day: “I love my teacher!” Her experience in working with immigrant children is a major factor in Priscilla’s decision to pursue a master’s degree in instructing English language learners.
Priscilla has very definite ideas about teaching and states them without hesitation. “In order to be the teacher who makes a lasting impact on the lives of one’s students, it is necessary to be reflective, caring, and a life-long learner. A teacher does not only teach content, but teaches students!”
She believes that Aquinas prepared her well for teaching “with great classes and with field experiences starting freshman year. I was constantly observing and learning in real classrooms around the city.” What is the most important thing about being a teacher that Priscilla learned at Aquinas? “To teach the whole child and to always teach Truth.” What is the most satisfying thing about teaching? “The most satisfying thing about teaching is seeing students grow academically and socially.”
As Priscilla closed her reflections, she said, “Aquinas and the Dominican Sisters have been a significant part of my beliefs and educational philosophy. Teaching is a calling. I have the privilege to touch and shape the lives of children and families.” She added, “It is a joy to go to school every day knowing that my little ones believe in me and I believe in them.” For any teacher, maybe that is one of the best awards of all.
Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen, O.P., Ed.D. is a member of the faculty of the School of Education and Director of the Aquinas College Center for Catholic Education.