Student voices: Habacuc Ortiz

Habacuc Ortiz is studying to be a teacher at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
January 10, 2023

Habacuc Ortiz (BAE ’23) is studying to become a teacher at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The first in his family to attend college, Ortiz started his studies at a local community college before transferring to ASU. He sees education as a way to help others reach their own potential, and is intrigued by the opportunity to transform education systems and increasing educator diversity. According to data evaluated by Pew Research, about 9% of all public school teachers are Latino. At ASU, which has been recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution, more than 30% of MLFTC students identify as Latino.

Q: How did you get interested in education?

A: To be honest, it wasn’t something that I initially thought I could or would do. I thought I might become a physical therapist because I liked sports. As a senior in high school, I got involved with the Boys and Girls Club, and that gave me a chance to see what it might be like to be a role model to kids who came from difficult home and economic situations.

It didn’t sink in, though, until the last day of high school. I was finishing up a project about career paths, and a teacher who knew my desire to self-improve and to encourage others to do better suggested I consider teaching. I changed my choice on the spot from kinesiology to secondary education teaching. 

What is your own background?

My dad worked in agriculture, following the footsteps of his own parents who came to the United States from Mexico,  and he picked cucumbers in Arizona. So when I talk to students I bring that understanding of what it is like to be a first-generation American. My parents came from rural parts of Mexico where electricity and water were scarce, yet they were motivated and they wanted opportunity for their children – and they gave us a strong example. My dad got his high school diploma in the United States and was an honors student. 

What was the process like for pursuing your college education?

In junior high and high school, I was kind of the class clown. Teachers saw my potential, but I wasn’t taking things too seriously at the time. I graduated with a 2.4 GPA, and, following graduation, I got started at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. I was also working as a janitor, since that was the only job I could find during the pandemic. Back then, I didn’t have any insight into scholarships or how to apply for FAFSA.

Why did you choose MLFTC?

As I got closer to completing my associates degree at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, I reached out to one of my teachers to get advice for where to go next. Most of my teachers there were Sun Devils and spoke highly of their experiences with the university, and I was also drawn to the chance to continue my education locally, and so I got ready to transfer to ASU. The team at ASU helped get me set up with advisor meetings and understand the credit transfer process and scholarship opportunities.

How do you think the teaching profession may be enhanced through diversity?

I would have liked to have had more Latino teachers during my school experience and I look forward to being part of a wider effort to increase awareness of education as a professional and career path among Latino students. Having someone who understands, and who can connect to you on that level, is so important because it opens doors and conversations, which leads to opportunities and greater awareness of ways to prepare and plan for post-secondary education. 

What do you see as your future?

I feel like I’m fulfilling my true purpose now. I am looking to teach junior high because I see that as being a phase of life when young people are trying to figure things out and developing their own personalities and perspectives on life. Getting a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University’s MLFTC will just be the start. I also see the value of pursuing a master’s degree and even a PhD to further my expertise and knowledge in the education field. 

Right now it’s about creating change in the educational setting by helping other students thrive personally and academically. As I look to the future, I can also see how I could make a difference through research or being involved in systemic change in an educational leadership capacity. 

Student voices at MLFTC is an ongoing series featuring students at ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.