- Julia, UIC B.S. in Teaching of Mathematics, 2023
Hello! Cześć! ¡Hola! I was born in the cultural melting pot of Chicago, a city known for a large population of Polish immigrants throughout its history. Stepping into one of the many Polish stores in my neighborhood, I feel like I am stepping into a little piece of Poland within Chicago.
Foreign language is very useful to me in my daily life. I speak Polish with my family of first-generation immigrants. When I was 3 years old, my mom taught me Polish from the “Elementarz,” which is a picture book that is traditionally used to teach toddlers how to read and speak in my native language. At first, she read it to me everyday. After some time, I started to read it and write Polish letters and small words. As a toddler, I already knew both English and Polish. I attended and graduated from Polish School, finishing 8th grade. Because of this, I passed the UIC Polish Placement test upon admission to college, demonstrating my proficiency in the language.
However, my language story is far from over. I decided to add another language to my repertoire: Spanish. I had already taken Spanish I through Spanish III in high school and through the UIC Spanish Placement Test, I tested into Spanish II at UIC. Already, I have used Spanish outside of the classroom at many, unexpected times, such as at the pool and at a taco restaurant. I will continue taking classes until I am proficient in Spanish as well, making me trilingual. These language classes do not just teach language; they also teach culture. I have been introduced to Spanish and Latino music, food, and movies through them, and I appreciate the culture even more now. I also understand the values of family, respect, hierarchy, and religion, and their profound influence on people in this culture. This is especially valuable to me as a future mathematics educator.
The ability to use English, Polish, and Spanish in my career will allow me to see my students from a more understanding point of view. As a trilingual teacher, I will understand bilingual students and appreciate their efforts to learn English as a second language, because I know it is not easy to learn a new language. Through this, I will be able to implement a more inclusive and multicultural education in my classroom. Additionally, because I understand the culture and values of my students and their families, I can be a better mentor and encourage students to pursue the educational path. As a mathematics educator, I can make a difference by breaking barriers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and using my language skills and cultural proficiency to encourage underrepresented students (like first-generation, low-income, Hispanic, or female students) to continue their education in the STEM fields, even in the face of stereotype threat and imposter syndrome, so that representation in these fields increases.
Language is a necessity in my daily life and it will allow me to make a difference and pay it forward in my career. Language is culture. Language is understanding. Language is human connection.