As a child in Brazil, the family farm was Andreia Resende’s laboratory. She delighted in running after chickens, looking up at the trees. “I would compare the different birds because we had so many exotic birds on our land,” she says.
Shortly before Resende and her parents immigrated to America, developers purchased the surrounding property. She thought that would be a positive step for the poor, rural region, suggesting to her grandfather that perhaps the developers would turn the area around.
Her grandfather, she recalls, replied, “No, they’re going to destroy the whole land.”
Resende was just 8 at the time. “I didn’t know what he was talking about, but when I was 22 and went back to visit, I saw just how much destruction they caused, and how it affected my grandfather’s farm, too.”
The impact of deforestation on her homeland was a lasting lesson, and one that inspired her as she pursued a college education, earning her degree in January 2022 and teacher certification in science. But the path from a farm girl chasing chickens to a young woman chasing her dreams wasn’t always easy, and that was another lesson she learned as well.
Challenges like doubting her own talents, limited financial resources and juggling full-time work with classes, would defer her ambitions. But despite the struggles, she is now both a college graduate and teacher, grateful to the educators who also saw her potential, opened doors and guided her to scholarships to help make her dreams come true.
A Teacher Like Me
Her story has come full circle. Resende is teaching biology at the same high school from which she graduated nine years ago – alongside Alex Diaz ’12 MAT, her former cooperating teacher and now a mentor at East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey.
She recalls a pivotal conversation with Diaz when she was a high school junior and self-described apathetic student and he was a teaching intern in the Urban Teacher Residency, Montclair’s grant-funded partnership that recruits and prepares teachers and provides crucial support in the early years of teaching:
“Mr. Diaz said, ‘Andreia, you have so much potential. I see that you are passionate about this subject, I know that you are intelligent, and I know that you’re just lacking the motivation to actually do the work. I’m going to recommend you for AP Biology because I believe that you can handle it and I believe that you are going to benefit from the class.’
“I think about how impactful Mr. Diaz was to me because if he had not encouraged me that way, I probably would have never pursued education, even if at first it was just two classes a semester at a community college because that’s all I could afford out of pocket,” Resende says.
The story resonates with Center of Pedagogy Executive Director Jennifer Robinson. “I am inspired when our graduates who teach in high-need communities can have this depth of impact upon their students. It means they have found a way to light a spark that lifts their students above any challenges they have faced in their lives,” she says.
Noyce At Montclair
Transferring to Montclair, Resende was accepted into the Robert Noyce Science Teacher Program, where support from Teaching and Learning Professor Douglas Larkin and Biology Professor Sandra Adams helped her persevere while working full time as a registered dental assistant.
“It’s not easy doing both and they have always been ready to help with anything I needed,” Resende says, including tutoring, academic advice and finding new avenues of financial support.
She won the prestigious Land Conservancy of NJ scholarship for an essay she wrote about the environmental destruction she witnessed as a child in Brazil, as well as the Richard A. Bard Endowed Scholarship, the AFT Local 1904 Scholarship, and the S. Marie Kuhnen Scholarship.
As a Noyce scholar – undergraduate chemistry, physics, earth science and biology majors admitted into the Teacher Education Program – she also received two years of scholarships equal to tuition and fees, as well as an annual stipend of $3,000.
The Noyce program, named after computer pioneer Robert Noyce, is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to place STEM teachers in high-need districts. It is among the paths Montclair provides as a state leader in filling a dire need for science teachers – in New Jersey, about 250 science vacancies each school year.
With Noyce funding recently renewed – Montclair was awarded $1.45 million in late January – the program will be expanded to include mathematics students as well as to build course pathways from Bergen Community College to Montclair for STEM Teacher Education students.
Professional support continues into the teachers’ early years from the Montclair Center of Pedogogy’s induction program and Noyce connections are particularly strong.
Kathryn Beatty ’17, a Noyce alumna and environmental science teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson served as Resende’s cooperating teacher during her teaching internship. “Andreia is the perfect type of teacher and perfect type of person to be a teacher because she understands the kids, because she’s from the area. I tell her, ‘you are the type of person that these kids need in the school.’”
As she begins her teaching career, Resende reflects, “I want to be able to encourage, to plant the seed where my students can believe in themselves and know that if they work hard enough that they can make it.”
Material in this story is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2150649.
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