Mariela Rodriguez

Hometown: Dallas, Texas
University: University of North Texas at Dallas
Teaching Interest: Bilingual Elementary Education

“Sin miedo.” These are Mariela’s favorite set of words, meaning “without fear.” It wasn’t always easy to live that mantra in a family that spoke only Spanish and in a community where many kids dropped out, fell into drugs, or became parents way too early. But Mariela leaned in, pressed on, and now is on the verge of realizing her dreams.

Mariela didn’t always want to be a teacher — she first wanted to be a dentist. But her mom knew, and told her for years she’d be a great teacher, despite her daughter’s constant denials. Then, during a public service class in her junior year of high school, Mariela visited a first-grade classroom to help out the teacher. At first, she was hesitant and shy, but as soon as she started working with the children, the teacher praised Mariela’s ability to connect and support them. She helped with a fourth-grade classroom during her senior year, and then she realized teaching was her future. During those experiences, she happened upon her second favorite set of words, which reflect the everyday impact teachers have on students: “I got it!”

"Being bilingual is like having superpowers, and that’s what I want to teach young kids to see it as — not to see themselves as someone who speaks more than one language, but to see themselves as a leader."
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