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April 14, 2021

AmeriCorps Alum Spotlight: Nereida Aguirre

For as long as she can remember, Nereida Aguirre wanted to be a teacher. Even as a young girl, Nereida had dreams of working with students and making a direct impact on their lives. 

After graduating high school, Nereida attended Tulsa Community College (TCC) and was working part-time at a restaurant. She wasn’t sure at the time how to exactly reach her goal of becoming a teacher. As part of the Tulsa Achieves program, she was looking for volunteer opportunities and signed up for Reading Partners at Hawthorne Elementary.

During her first year with Reading Partners as a volunteer, Nereida provided a total of 106 tutoring sessions or volunteer hours — 60 hours beyond the requirement for Tulsa Achieves students and three times as many as sessions provided by the average Tulsa Achieves tutor.


“Working with students at Hawthorne reaffirmed teaching was where my heart was leading me,” Nereida said. 

So, when the program year ended, Nereida applied to serve a year with AmeriCorps and accepted a position as the literacy lead at Hamilton Elementary for the 2016-17 school year. Serving with AmeriCorps offers a unique opportunity to immediately put values into action and make a positive impact on student literacy growth and confidence. 

Coming into her first AmeriCorps position was something that Nereida says she had to grow into, and helped her become more confident about pursuing her childhood dream. During her three years of service in AmeriCorps with Reading Partners, Nereida learned how to work with kids, community volunteers from all walks of life, fellow AmeriCorps members, teachers and principals. Nereida credits her years of service with helping her learn all about reading and how to teach this skill to young learners. 

“My AmeriCorps experience shaped my future career path because I learned how to tutor kids in reading, how the school system works, and how relationships within a school function to best serve the kids in the school setting. It also taught me that I truly can make a difference in the lives of others,” Nereida said.

One of those students she can make a difference for came into her life at Mitchell Elementary during her second and third AmeriCorps years. According to Nereida, this second-grade student struggled tremendously the first year he was enrolled in Reading Partners. It took him a long time to learn his letter sounds and sight words. Reading simple sentences was difficult for this student, so it was hard work getting him motivated to read. However, when his second year in Reading Partners came around, he was soaking in all the information. By the end of that year, he was able to read fluently and developed his comprehension skills. Nereida recalls feeling proud and happy he was able to read by the end of third grade.

“The growth I would see each year in students’ reading scores was inspiring. Seeing students’ growth each school year was truly a blessing and it made my heart happy when students realized how much more they could read,” Nereida said. 

Nereida balanced going to college and serving as an AmeriCorps member in Tulsa simultaneously. When she first began with Reading Partners, she was still attending TCC. In the spring of 2018, she transferred to Northeastern State University (NSU) part-time. Nereida says that attending college part-time was the best path for her because of the significant workload that accompanies serving as an AmeriCorps member. To Nereida, the tradeoff was the right choice because she knew she was helping children and the community. Additionally, she was also able to apply what she was learning through her AmeriCorps service to support her in her university reading courses.


“Having the reading experience that I got in teaching reading to K-3rd grade students beforehand was fantastic because I was able to connect all the course reading information with my teaching experience as a literacy lead with Reading Partners,” Nereida said.  

Toward the end of her studies at NSU, Nereida’s scholarships began to run out. With funding from the Segal Education Award, that she received as part of her AmeriCorps service, Nereida was able to pay for the remainder of her education, including tuition, textbooks, and other education materials she needed to be successful during her time at the university. Nereida graduated from Northeastern State University in December 2020 with a degree in Elementary Education.

Less than one month later, Nereida was offered a full-time position as a Kindergarten Dual Language Teacher at Kendall-Whittier Elementary in Tulsa Public Schools – one of Reading Partners’ partner schools, and the same school she attended for fourth and fifth grades. 


In her current role, Nereida teaches Spanish reading to the Spanish speakers in her homeroom class as well as the Spanish speakers from another kindergarten class. Nereida also teaches Spanish Social Studies to her homeroom class and another Kindergarten Class. Since her homeroom class is dual language, this means there are both native Spanish-speakers as well as native English-speakers in her class. Native Spanish-speakers receive their reading in Spanish and native English-speakers receive their reading in English. In her social studies classes, students who are both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking are mixed together, so even though her instruction is in Spanish, sometimes she finds herself translating parts of the lessons in English to her English speakers since the students are young and still early in their language development. The goal is for these students to understand and communicate in Spanish.

Students in Nereida’s classes are given opportunities to speak Spanish on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; meanwhile, on Tuesday and Thursdays they speak English.

“I love that my students are given the opportunity to learn both Spanish and English at a young age. There are so many benefits to being bilingual, and having these dual language skills will open so many doors for them in the future!” Nereida said.


So what is Nereida’s parting advice for incoming AmeriCorps members?

“Enjoy each and every one of your service years because they are truly such wonderful memories that you will always get to keep in your heart and share with others,” Nereida said.

Serving a year with AmeriCorps and Reading Partners offers a chance to connect with talented people in the education and nonprofit spaces, while sharpening professional skills. We’re now accepting applications for our 2021-22 AmeriCorps team.

Find out more about the benefits of a service year and apply today:

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