For Estrella Medrano ‘19, staying home for her college education wasn’t her first choice but it ended up being her best choice. Estrella grew up in Ashland then Medford, graduating from North Medford High School in 2016. Because of her close-knit family, she felt it best to attend SOU so she could be near them. She earned scholarships though, which allowed her to live on campus in Raider Village for three complete years. It ended up being a great experience that she would never trade. “I was able to meet so many unique and different people staying on campus. It really allowed me the freedom to experience life and find out who I was,” she said.
On campus academically, Estrella cites Dr. William Greene as being a tremendous influence on his students. “Dr. Greene was inspiring and so genuine and caring. He always said ‘I love you’ to us and he really meant it. He was just a great role model for aspiring teachers,” she said. Her involvement with the Latino Student Union made her experience blossom because she met fellow students from all over the world with shared values and cultural experiences. “We pushed each other and leaned on each other and being a part of it made us stronger.” She was also influenced positively by Jonathan Chavez-Baez, Coordinator for Minority Outreach Programs and Marvin Woodard, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center.
Estrella’s program in elementary education brought her to schools in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Central Point. Much of the initial experience was observation of classes taught by veteran teachers. But one experience really stood out at Ashland’s Walker Elementary, where she was able teach two English Language Learner (ELL) classes and she acted as an interpreter for a student who had recently immigrated from central America. “Being bilingual really helped me to connect with the students and I know they appreciated the help and the confidence boost knowing someone was there to help them,” she said. She graduated in just three years with her bachelor of arts in elementary education in 2019.
Following graduation, Estrella enrolled in the MAT program at George Fox University in Newberg and did her full day student-teaching experience at Lincoln Elementary in Woodburn, Oregon, where she taught a bilingual fourth grade class and learned the ropes of lesson planning, preparation and working with and inspiring a diversity of learners. Lincoln has a predominantly Latino population of students and many of its teachers are Latino and bilingual. It was an amazing and practical experience for her.
Recently, Estrella returned to the Rogue Valley and was hired to teach fourth grade at Phoenix Elementary, where she’ll guide bilingual and ELL students in a two-way immersion program. “I’m extremely excited to come back and work with these young students. They all have enormous potential but just need help, guidance, inspiration and love to help them move forward. I’m proud of my heritage and am excited to be able to help them achieve in our society,” she said.
Learn more: Phoenix Elementary School