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Affiliation: Alumna

Program: PhD, Teaching and Curriculum
Sandra Quiñones

 

Sandra Quiñones

With her father working as a civilian engineer for the Navy in their native Puerto Rico, Sandra Quiñones grew up attending an on-base U.S. Department of Defense school. She had few Latino teachers, started learning English in kindergarten and took her first Spanish class in middle school. She took a 30-minute bus ride to get there while her neighborhood friends attended local schools.

“When I went home I was not the black sheep, but I was definitely the gringo, the American girl,” she recalls. “It was like living in two worlds.”

Quiñones, a PhD student in teaching and curriculum, hopes to bridge those worlds for the one in five public school students in this country who are Latino—students who rarely see teachers who look like them, have a high dropout rate, and are often misperceived as “uneducated and unable to succeed.” She wants to spotlight inspirational stories of achievement and help Latino students accept, and even take pride in, their place in a bilingual, bicultural society.

“It’s really hard when you go to school because there’s a lot of pressure to assimilate,” she says. “There’s a feeling that you’re giving up something. But you’re not, really. You can add to what you already know.”

An educator for nearly a decade at the elementary, secondary, community college and college levels in New York State and Puerto Rico, Quiñones, whose research interests include curriculum theory, college and the development of critical educators, plans to return to teaching at the college level after graduation—this time to train teachers. As she did while teaching a diversity and multicultural education class at Medaille College’s Canadian Graduate Teacher Education Program last summer, Quiñones seeks to prepare new educators to think critically about how their backgrounds and viewpoints impact the way they teach. She has seen the effects through research on the retention of Latino students in college and on community reform efforts in an area with a large Hispanic population.

Quiñones is adamant that her dissertation topic ultimately becomes a meaningful contribution to the educational field, especially given the low number of Latino teachers and the even lower number of Latinos earning doctorates.

“I feel a civic responsibility to be an advocate,” says the University of Rochester Provost’s Fellow and a 2009 American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Graduate Fellow, one of only 12 selected nationwide. “I’m not just doing this for me. It’s really about who I represent in my community.”

(Published January 2009)



Tags: teaching and curriculum