Published on November 17th, 2016 | by Aasha Francis0
Professor Yolanda Nieves, wins Andrew Kirchmeier Teaching Award
Professor Yolanda Nieves, is a proud Humboldt Park native. She grew up in a time where Puerto Ricans in the Wicker Park neighborhood were victims of gentrification, being pushed toward the west side of the city in Humboldt Park. There was an immense amount of upheaval for many Chicago neighborhoods during that time. “My family was relegated to only being able to purchase property in certain areas. Life for Puerto Ricans has been dictated by real estate maneuvers, public policy, and pure luck, at times,” Nieves says.
These experiences, shaped who Nieves is today but also, Ms. Slowiak, her elementary school teacher prompted an early interest in teaching. “She encouraged me in the arts, writing and scholarly inquiry. Ms. Slowiak believed that there was good in every student that sat a desk in her class. What I’m trying to say is that she never judged her students by the color of their skin, on their economic status, or gender, but she recognized the potential in all of her students,” Nieves says.
Nieves believes that teaching has the power to change students’ ways of thinking and living just as Ms. Slowiak did. She has been teaching, writing, conducting research, and learning new ways to teach for over 40 years. She is currently a full-time tenured Associate Professor at Wright College Humboldt Park and describes her teaching style as interactive, creative, structured, and flexible. She recently won the Andrew Kirchmeier Teaching Award, which is given to a researcher who also practices good pedagogy (innovative and practical teaching methods). “The most important aspect of my teaching journey is that I am the eternal student. It’s hard work to learn, to reflect, to critically think and write about what is happening in the world and in one’s soul, but very worthwhile,” Nieves says.
When it comes to teaching, Professor Nieves considers it her calling and the students and staff at Wright College Humboldt Park will forever be impacted by her commitment to education.