Student Profile: Diego Melendez

Diego Melendez was encouraged to pursue a career in education after his high-school English teacher pointed out his ability to inspire his classmates to learn. Diego was intrigued by the thought of becoming an educator, but being the first person in his family to go to college and the oldest of seven children, it was important for his parents to see him advance financially. Diego struggled to choose between his newfound interest in education and his parents’ wishes during his first year as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University- New Brunswick.  
Diego learned of his natural affinity for teaching while taking the “Introduction to Education” course where he began to understand the impact educators can have on society. Realizing his true love for teaching, Diego decided to rewrite his definition of success and pursue a pedagogical profession with dreams of impacting people’s lives through education.
Diego’s passion for education combined with his love for the Italian language and culture led Diego to major in Italian with a minor in comparative literature. He enrolled in the five-year teacher education program in language education at Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) in summer 2014. Diego is currently in his second to last semester at the GSE, and is student teaching in an Italian language course at North Brunswick High School.

Diego believes that understanding cultural differences in today’s globalized society is important. As an advocate for global issues, such as education and equality, Diego wants his students to be open to new ideas. He believes that learning languages can help challenge students’ conventions and make them more culturally aware.
“Learning to become a language educator has enabled me to explore ideas with a renewed perspective,” said Diego. “I hope to convey this way of thinking into my students and inspire them to learn about different cultures both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Reflecting with a group of 15 fellow student teachers in the language education program complements Diego’s experience teaching in the classroom. Their weekly seminar allows them to share ideas and reflect on their experiences in the classroom, helping each other grow in their profession. Diego particularly enjoys the motivation they give each other through constructive feedback and words of encouragement and draws strength from conversing with the group.
Diego had the opportunity to receive academic credit while participating in The Conversation Tree, an award-winning program created by the GSE and Rutgers Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service to provide opportunities for non-English speaking adults to collaborate with Rutgers students and learn English through informal conversations. Diego sought to give others the chance to reach their goals in the United States by helping them learn the dialect.
Diego aspires to teach Italian once he graduates from the teacher education program in May 2016. After gaining more experience in the classroom, Diego plans on pursuing his Ph.D. in language education.
“I don’t want to stop at my master’s degree,” noted Diego. “I want to work toward getting my Ph.D because I believe education is an invaluable tool in changing our world.”
Visit the five-year teacher education program in foreign language education webpagee on the GSE website to learn about the program.