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 GED teacher, Angel Castañer
Q: Where are you from? Chicago, Illinois.
Q. Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program? If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them? It has always been very difficult for me to focus, both in the short and long term. I often tell people that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Once I realized that my main impetus in life was helping people, that made my transition into education much easier.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education? I wanted to gain a deeper theoretical understanding of what it means to be an effective teacher. The Master’s program I was a part of gave us a lot of hands-on experience and gave me a great preparation to becoming a teacher.
Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education? I was not.
Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education? What did you study? I studied for and received my BA in political science and journalism at GWU in 2009. In 2013 I got my Master’s in Secondary Education at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?Without a doubt, time management. While on the one hand, I love being independent, I always found it very hard to complete my work in a timely fashion. It took a lot of self-discipline and isolating myself from people and distractions to be able to get anything done.
Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education? The knowledge that I would, one day very soon, make a big difference in people’s lives
Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field? My path into education was a little strange. I graduated with my degree in political science, and as such was looking for jobs in that field. The summer after graduation, I couldn’t find any work, so I began doing individual tutoring to earn a little money. After a while, I realized that I actually looked forward to doing my job, so I began to pursue teaching full time. Two years and some change later, and I had my Master’s in Education and was ready to teach!
Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS? I am one of the science teachers in the day school GED program, teaching both in Spanish and English.
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education? There will always be obstacles, but there is absolutely NO reason not to pursue higher education. Many students lose hope after hitting an obstacle, but it is important to understand that it is never too late - as I like to say, life often gets in the way of living. Stick to your goals, don’t be afraid of postponing or taking too long, and carry on.
Q: Who do you admire and why? I admire my wife for having the tenacity and persistence to solve difficult problems long after my patience has expired. I also admire my parents for having built a very comfortable life in this country after many years of hard work.
Q: What motivates you?
I am motivated not only for students to learn, but to inspire a LOVE and thirst for knowledge that many have not experienced until now. I remember a professor I had in college who taught Russian literature. I came in not knowing much about the subject, but the fact that he made his classes fun and dynamic made me come out with a renewed interest. I always try to emulate his example in class. Another thing that motivates me is the ripple effect that working with students causes. Even if I only am able to inspire one student to direct their life in a positive direction, that student will be able to go out, do great things, and touch the lives of others.