Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S., Biology
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Biology, grades 8-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Noyce Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College
Current academic or teaching status:
School and school district:
Santa Maria ISD, Santa Maria High School
My name is Raul Zavala. I currently reside in Santa Maria, Texas, but was born in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico. I came with my family into the United States when I was three. I come from a family of 12. I went to Head Start when I was four and then to pre-K and so on. It was hard for me to write, read, and speak English because Spanish was my first language. By going to Head Start, I started to improve, learning how to write and pronounce words correctly. When I went to elementary school, I thought it was fun because I would joke a lot, but I was smart though because I would do my work and get good grades. When I was in fifth grade, my life took a complete turn due to my grandmother’s death. I started to “really” care about my grades and about school because I realized how much my parents had done for me. From that moment on, I realized that education is vital to what I ultimately plan to do in life, and the only way I could help my family was if I excelled in school. As soon as I came to high school, I began to think about my future goals–what I would be doing once I graduated. I graduated in the top 10 percent, ranking fourth out of 50 students in my high school class. I started going to the University of Texas Brownsville/Texas Southernmost College less than a week after I graduated from high school. I was majoring in nursing, switched to Pre-Med, and finally to teaching. The decision I made was because of my past experiences in my education. Throughout my school years, I was fortunate enough to have better teachers than some people. By “better,” I mean teachers who focused on working with the student in ways that would better their learning; unfortunately, not everyone has been as privileged as I have been. Science has been a passion for me as long as I can remember. I loved my science classes from first or second grade when we would collect ants for class, plant bean plants, and many more things that fascinated me and I thought were fun. Through teaching is how I will help young people be college ready and excel academically.
Why do you want to teach:
I do not only want to make a difference in a child, but to give them an unforgettable educational experience they will have in their memory for years to come, a big impact in them. I want to show them and have them remember how I believed they could be high achievers by trying and never giving up no matter what obstacles they had to face. All children are equal whether they are late bloomers, very bright, or have any sort of disability, and they should know that no one and nothing could stop them from obtaining an education. Through teaching, I will face challenges, which I will make every effort to overcome no matter what lies ahead.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
I feel it is important to make learning interesting, creative, and fun using any sort of method which students will enjoy. An example would be my using educational song lyrics with a sophomore Chemistry class about composition of atoms. I read them a short funny story of the Atoms Family. The students laughed and were very engaged, but most importantly learned the subatomic particles of atoms. Then I had them practice the song lyrics to try to sing it aloud in front of the class; most decided to do this in groups of two or more students. While they practiced it, I motivated them to pretend they were singing their favorite song, and to sing as a real singer. They found this fun, enjoyable, and worthwhile because they used a karaoke machine to sing it in a microphone. I closed the lesson by singing it solo for them. It is not that I am good at it, but they liked the way I sang it and my tone of voice. Students grasped the concept of structures of atoms and remembered all semester and the year about that lesson.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
The Noyce program meant a lot to me because I would commute to school daily, and my financial assistance from grants was insufficient to continue my last semester of my education. I am very thankful because I had previously obtained student loans and thanks to the Noyce scholarship, I did not have to get more loans. I worked so hard to bring my GPA to a good average for about two years, and the scholarship was like a dream come true because I believe that after all the obstacles I had to endure I deserved it.