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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
Ana Contreras immigrated to Phoenix from Mexico with her family when she was three years old. One of her first memories she has is of the Head Start program and the kind teachers she had.
That kindness continued throughout her education. Contreras said her family didn’t have the means to buy her nice things like some of her classmates had, but her teachers made her feel special.
“Whenever I thought about teaching, I thought about kind people,” she said.
Contreras has been teaching kindergarten for 10 years and recently came back to Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to pursue a master’s degree in educational policy. As a single mother, she waited until her daughter was older to go back to school.
Although Contreras enjoys the classroom she feels she can make a greater impact with policy work.
“Policy gives me a voice. Not only do I want to help students, I want to support teachers,” she said. “It’s a critical time in Arizona and we need to take advantage of the momentum.”
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)
Answer: I had been searching for some time for a graduate program and then one day during my lunch period at work, I saw that ASU was offering a master's in educational policy. Immediately, I was intrigued. I felt that teachers often don’t have their voices heard. Through this program I knew I would learn the tools and learn how to navigate the systems to support public education.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I realized I had more knowledge about policy practices in public schools and that my voice needed to be heard.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: ASU was the only school to offer this program. Since I completed my undergrad at ASU, I knew it would be of high caliber with some of the most talented professors. Dr. David Garcia was one of the professors I was eager to have because of his extensive knowledge of Arizona’s education system.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: It is possible to work full-time and go to school full-time, but do not forget to take care of yourself.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: ASU offers many shady spots with benches and I enjoyed taking time to relax before class or to chat with a classmate.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Use my knowledge to bring awareness to the needs of teachers and students in our public schools.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Provide scholarships to single parents for child care to allow them to return to school.
Written by Trista Sobeck