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Daughter of immigrants finds teaching path at RPS 205

Jasmine Chavez Education Pathway BJasmine Chavez-Espinoza didn’t know it at the time, but her stuffed animals helped find her calling.

When she was little, her favorite toy was an erase board. She drew and erased, and drew and erased, without as much as a raised googly eye from her audience.

It was only later—at Jefferson High School—that Chavez realized what the stuffed animals were telling her.

“It wasn’t until my senior year, when I discovered how much I loved art that I realized what I wanted to do: I want to inspire students the way I’m being inspired by my art teachers.

“The next question was, ‘How am I going to do it? How am I going to go to school for that?’’’

It was a very practical question for Chavez, 18, the daughter of immigrants. It was the beginning of her path to an Education Pathway scholarship with the Rockford Public Schools.

Chavez is one of 10 students in the district who graduated last May as the first Education Pathway scholars.  They are part of a partnership between RPS 205 and Rockford University that allows as many as 20 high school graduates every year to pursue a teaching degree from RU at a steeply discounted tuition. For students with high financial need, the cost is $5,000 per year; students with no financial need pay $10,000 a year. Scholarship recipients student-teach in the district. Once they graduate, they become priority hires in RPS 205. Once hired, they can earn a master’s degree in urban education from RU for free. It’s an opportunity to receive both a graduate degree and an undergraduate degree (a total value of $142,000) for as little as $20,000.

The financial help and the promise of a teaching job once she graduates were very attractive to Chavez. Even though she works two jobs—at a department store and a nursing home– she knew financing a college education would be a stretch for her, a first-generation college student. “My mom tells me all the time, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe my baby is actually going off to college.”

What’s more, Chavez gets to stay in Rockford. “I like this town. I see a lot of potential in Rockford,” she said. “I like the idea of staying and teaching in my hometown.”

Chavez is excited about helping students discover their potential the same way her teachers helped her. There was Lynn Stockton, an art teacher at Jefferson, who helped Chavez manage time-intensive art projects. There was Douglas McArthur, who taught Advanced Placement (AP) English. “Everyone would complain about his class. He loved to challenge us. He would say, ‘One day you guys are going to thank me.’ I didn’t see it while I was in the class. But close to graduation, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. He was doing something for us.’”

Now Chavez has found her path to pay back.

In addition to Chavez, the first class of Education Pathway scholarship recipients is: Elizabeth Malenchik, Lance Rotert, Isabella Camacho, Hunter Kahler, Alyssa Reyes, Natalie Sales, Gretchen Stark, Joseph Mitkusevitch and Chandler Groth.

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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2 Comments

  1. Colleen Holmbeck

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  2. Colleen Holmbeck

    This is one program that I haven’t heard of. Congratulations to the School District and RU. What a great chance for these kids.

    Colleen Holmbeck

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