“Pay it forward” is Rosa Ruiz Mendez’s mantra. Education has always been an influential part of her life, and after studying at the heels of inspirational teachers, she is poised to become the next encourager, motivating generations to come.
Ruiz Mendez, freshman education major, holds deep meaning and attachment to the field. “When I first started school, I didn’t speak English. I was put into ESL classes,” says Ruiz Mendez. “I have made it a long way since then and I want to help students in similar situations.” She admits there were obstacles along her educational journey. “School was hard for me, and I want to help my students become successful, no matter their background.”
Though her educational journey has been difficult, her accomplishments show otherwise. During all four years of high school Ruiz Mendez was a member of Southern Guilford Academy, a program of advanced study. She was also a member of the National Honor Society, Tri-M music honor society, a Junior Marshall and a four-year member of the Century Club, which recognizes the top 100 students at the school. She participated in All-State and All-County chorus for 2 years.
During high school, she became seriously interested in teaching. “I had several opportunities to work with younger students and I loved being in elementary school the most,” says Ruiz Mendez. “For my senior project I was able to create and teach my own class lessons to first, third and fourth grade ESL students at Sumner Elementary.”
When it was time to select a college, she didn’t have to look far. “I chose UNCG because it is close to home and the School of Education has a great teaching program. It’s also a beautiful campus and diverse school. UNCG felt like the perfect place for me.”
Any student who lands Ruiz Mendez as their teacher can count themselves lucky. Her dedication is fierce and her purpose, selfless. “I hope to shape the minds of my students. I want to motivate, encourage and inspire them the way my own teachers have inspired me.”
Story by Mary Leigh Howell, contributor
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations