By: College and Career Readiness Team
Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as alumni to share their experiences with education, and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.
For this month’s Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Eugenia Williams, Spanish Language Arts GED teacher.
Q: What is your name?
Q: Where are you from?
I was born in Madrid, Spain and I lived there for almost 40 years.
Q. Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program?
I encountered challenges early on when I was fifteen and my dad had a serious stroke. He stopped working for more than one year, being financially hard for the family. I, as an only child, took the responsibility to work instead of going to school. I completed high school teaching myself after work each night. Having to work and study at night was a challenge, for that reason, I know very well what the students go through every day since I lived it for years even after completing my high school education.
Q. If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them?
I have always been a very energetic person that had to do something all the time if not I was not happy. When you are young you can do anything if that is what you want. I recognize that for me it was hard at times but it was worth it because all my life I wanted the same thing: to study and be able to share my knowledge with who needs it. I still want that.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?
Because I wanted to show my children that education is the most important thing a parent can leave behind to their children. Material things could last a few moments, but what you have in your brain last forever. When I was pregnant of my oldest child, I decided it was the right time to become an example for my children.
Q: Were you the first one in your family continuing their education?
Yes! I was.
Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education?
In Spain in UNED (Universidad de Eduacion a Distancia) and in the United States, under F-1 Visa, as an International Student, at Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University in Virginia.
Q: What did you study?
In Spain, I studied Clinical Psychology and in the United States I completed three associates degrees in: General Studies, Sciences; Liberal Arts; Physical Therapy Assistant. Four national certifications in Physical Therapy Assistant, Phlebotomy, and Business Information Technology. A Bachelor’s in Classical and Modern Languages, Concentration in Spanish and a Master’s in Modern and Classical Languages, Concentration in Spanish Literature.
Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?
I was lucky to have saved up money before applying for my student visa to study in the United States. My savings covered most of my studies and after that, I worked and went to school. Initially, I came to this country to study medicine but due to my status and the cost, I did not. My counselor once told me “sometimes the easiest path to get to point A (education) is not this path (pursuing medicine) but this path (pursuing nursing or physical therapy).” I took her advice and pursued associates degree.
Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?
The biggest challenge I faced was my schedule, having long days working at the Embassy of Spain and take 21 credits per semester. I was always in a hurry. I feel like my time is precious and I have to take advantage of that. I remember writing 15-page research papers in one night for my Bachelor’s and two 16-page chapters in a weekend towards my 160-page thesis in three months. Crazy!!
Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education?
At first, my mother was. She was very straightforward with this matter. She used to tell me that only with completing education, one day I could be in the court of a king sharing an exquisite meal and talking about anything with the aristocrats, and the next day sharing a cup of garlic and potato soup at the table of His Majesty’s servant. I will never forget her words, her face and the meaning of that. When I became a mother, my children helped me to complete “my lesson plans”: Objective: to pursue my goal. Guided practice: Modeling for and with them our education. Even today I tell them “If your mom can do it, you can too. So, if you want something, you have to fight for it.”
Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?
It started when I was very young, my mom noticed that I played with my dolls teaching them how to read and write. I loved telling stories and learning stories. I would tell my children stories about the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians. It was my passion to teach and make teaching fun! I did not start my professional life in the education field but I am glad to be here now.
Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS?
I teach Language Arts in the Spanish GED track at night
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?
I give my students the same advices that I would give my son and daughter. I call my students “mis chicos” since they are very important to me. First thing, I tell them that education is number one in life, and that is what they have to achieve in order to be successful. We are all a family here at The Next Step, we all believe in the same mission. Education is what will get them further and it is something no one can ever take from them.
Q: Who is your hero? & Why?
My hero is my mom. She passed two years ago leaving me a hole in my chest. My mom worked her entire life to educate me and give me all the things she could not have as a child. She was seven years old when the Spanish Civil War broke out not being able to continue school. I admire her because she educated herself. She used to take my text books and imitate me studying. She taught me to always be prepared in life and be faithful to my ideas. My mother was brave, determined, and the hard character woman I admire.
Q. What is a skill you believe students need to be successful in college or a career?
A skill I find very important is to read. A book can teach you the world, cultures, customs, and overall how to communicate with others. Being able to express yourself allows you to go forward. You receive so much knowledge by the simple skill of reading, listening, and talking to the rest of the universe. I blandly believe that students should have a hunger for learning, our responsibility as teachers is to facilitate that hunger.
Q. What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about reading! My favorites books are: El Quijote, by the superb Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright Miguel de Cervantes and the second one Crónica de una muerte anunciada by the Nobel prize Colombian novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.