MLFTC graduate awarded Fulbright grant to teach in Mexico

Mitzi Vilchis, a secondary education major who graduated from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College this year, was recently named a Fulbright grantee. She will travel to Mexico this fall to begin teaching English to schoolchildren. “I am still waiting for my official assignment to a state and city,"  Vilchis said, "but I am very excited about my side project that I will do while there,”

Her side project, a requirement of the Fulbright application, will involve helping her students in Mexico craft digital stories — video documentaries on social justice issues. She was inspired to create the project by her work with CompuGirls, a culturally responsive technology program for adolescent girls in ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology.

Vilchis was born in Phoenix and grew up in Tempe. “I knew I wanted to be close to home and close to my family, so ASU was a natural choice for me for college. And I chose teaching because I want to be a positive force in kids’ lives. I want to be the one person, and for some kids it might really be just one person, who encourages them to be more than they think they can be.”

Vilchis, who also won the Roberto L. Pastor Student Award for academic achievement, isn't finished with her own studies. She envisions herself midway through a PhD program five years from now, but she says she will always teach in some way.

Tales Out of School

A lightning-round interview that introduces you to members of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College community

What three things are always in your fridge?
Tortillas, serrano peppers and eggs.

Coffee or tea:
Coffee.

Last movie you watched that made you cry:
“I Learn America.”

Last book you read:
“Things Fall Apart.”

Teaching is the most important profession because ...
As teachers, we are able to be our students’ cheerleaders day in and day out. We can be the voice that tells them they can achieve anything they want and help them along the way.

The real-life teacher who most inspired you was ...
Ruben Montalbo, my second-grade teacher at Holdeman Elementary School, because he pushed me to do my best even when I doubted myself.

Favorite fictional teacher:
Snape.

What are you most grateful for?
My family.

Why did you choose education as a major?
I knew of too many young people who had been given up on by teachers and told, “You’ll never amount to anything.” As a result, I wanted to be the one who told my students they can do whatever they set their minds to, even if there are challenges in the way.

Who inspired you when you were young, and why?
My sister because she was always hard-working and super-creative.

Who inspires you now?
Maria Chacon at Central High School in Phoenix, because she’s the teacher I want to be. I met her while I was student teaching. She’s also so proud of being Hispanic and is a great leader. She talks to everyone and always has amazing words for me when I’m having a hard day at school. She is also very knowledgeable on how to help our kids, especially if they are undocumented. I want to know as much as she does so I can help my future students in any way I can.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?
Working and studying at the same time. Both things required me to take work home, but hey, I can’t complain. It’s been great and I’m proud of a lot of things.

Three historical or fictional people you would have over for dinner:
Monet, Frida Kahlo and President Obama and his family.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation, and why?
Car. It’s very convenient.

What’s your go-to food?
Mom’s food, or anything that’s easy to make.

ASU moment to remember:
Staying at Hayden Library till 6 a.m. (when I had a 9 a.m. class) with my friend Courtney Besaw (also graduating this spring, and my friend since middle school). We were working on our chapter. We had a lot of adventures. Mainly they included finding great spots to do homework.

Biggest change in classrooms from when you were a child to today:
There are no overhead projectors!

If you could listen to only three songs for the rest of your life:
“Corazon Atomico” by Zoe; “Days” by The Drums; and “Running Up That Hill” by Placebo.

Biggest mistake:
Quitting ballet folklorico when I was younger.

Biggest accomplishment:
The chapter I co-authored with Kimberly Scott (associate professor at ASU, founder and executive director of ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, and of CompuGirls) and my friend Courtney.

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done:
Applied to Fulbright and everything that awaits!

What advice would give your 18-year-old self?
Minor in something! Transborder Chicano Lit., Women and Gender Studies or any other ethnic studies.

Favorite movie quote:
I don’t think it’s from a movie, but: “Nothing is impossible. The world itself says, I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Pet peeve:
Giving up easily on something. Come on, people. Problem-solve!

App you can’t live without:
Facebook. All the groups help so you can talk to everyone and ask any questions you have.