Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

The Story of Self: A Tale as Old as Time

Once Upon a Time, a starry eyed student, Nyckole Lázaro Quintero, entered her local high school hoping that by the end of her time there she would have made her parents proud. Coming from Colombia and living as immigrants in America, Nyckole’s parents worked various jobs; her mother had jobs ranging from janitorial to babysitting and her father had jobs ranging from janitorial to construction. Being the only one who wanted to go to college, Nyckole’s parents hoped that she would study and enter a prestigious high paying field such as medicine or law, and although they knew little about the American education system, they always pushed her to succeed in school. Much to their surprise, the only field she felt passionate about was anything and everything related to education.

As early as middle school, I remember having a strong desire to work in education. I constantly went back and forth deciding what subject and level I wanted to teach: “maybe a Math teacher, or maybe English, what about a guidance counselor, in high school or in middle school?” I think the main reason I’ve always come back to working in education was because of the teachers and counselors I had growing up. In elementary school, my mom would take my siblings and I to Colombia for months and when I would come back to school, my English teacher would stay after school every day with me to help me catch up. In middle school, my Math teacher began showing me how beautiful, enjoyable, and funny math can be. And then in high school, my AP Calculus teacher’s odd support strategies pushed me to truly focus on education as a possible career; my fondest memories of her and her class are the many times she laughed while I cried over my grades during her break period. 

Throughout high school, I had a few opportunities to volunteer in activities related to education. I tutored some ELL (English Language Learners) students in my high school, volunteered in a mentorship program geared towards children in low-income communities, and was a children’s Bible Study teacher at my local church. 

However, it wasn't until coming to Harvard that I got a more professional opportunity to explore the education field. The summer before coming to campus for the first time, I taught an Algebra course online in the Wave Learning Festival program of 2020, during Spring semester of 2021 I revisited one of my lessons as part of my midterm project in a seminar I took focused on Math Education, during this current semester I worked as a Course Assistant (CA) for Math MB here at Harvard, and this upcoming summer and fall semester, I will be working as a CA again!

Although I still find myself in the same position as I was in middle school and high school, conflicted on where and what I want to teach, my experience as a CA in Math MB has heavily impacted me this semester. After every stressful week this semester, I felt an intense joy and excitement walking into my Sunday MQC shift and seeing a medium-sized classroom in the Science Center filled with the chatter of MB students. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this semester as much as I have if it wasn't for everything that being a Math MB CA brought. 


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