Rebeca Guerrero is the founder and academic director of Copernicus STEM, Language and Arts Academy, a preschool located in Austin, Texas. The Academy’s focus is exposing children, ages 18 months to 5 years, to STEM and STEAM activities while engaged in play. These explorations are structured within a dual-language environment, modeling descriptive language in both English and Spanish. Currently, Guerrero is developing an emergent curriculum that introduces a different STEM topic every month for the kids to explore, be creative, and practice problem solving skills. Recent topics at the school include space, energy and light, plants, human anatomy, animals, human history, and building.
Did you always want to teach?
For a long time, I thought I wanted to be a scientist. Though in retrospect, even as a young child, I loved to pretend play that I was a science teacher. Soon after graduating from college I started tutoring non-traditional students to get their high school diplomas. I find that at all times in my career, as a research assistant or graduate student, I was involved in teaching in one way or another!
What was the trajectory of your teaching career?
I became a science teacher after working for 10 years in microbiology laboratories. In the early 2000s, I started working towards a Ph.D. in ecology at the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP). Through that position, I became a biology lecturer for non-majors. Teaching biology to that audience changed my whole life. I became more in love with teaching biology than researching it. I decided to apply for my teaching certification, and shortly thereafter I became qualified to teach Science in the state of Texas in grades 8-12. From 2006 to 2015, I taught Chemistry, Physics, Biology, AP Environmental Sciences, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry. Later, my life priorities and career goals pivoted when my child was about 2 years of age. I needed an early childhood program that was in sync with my teaching philosophy. My friend, and now-business partner, encouraged me to start our own program — Copernicus Academy! This became the venue to share my passion for science with my own son as well as other families and friends.
Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work.
While teaching a biology class at UTEP, a student approached me for a piece of advice. She said she really enjoyed my class and the way I presented the information. She was a journalism major and she wanted to ask me if I thought changing majors to microbiology was a good option. I was moved by her gesture. It felt really amazing that one of my students considered my opinion so valuable. We sat and talked about the options and I tried to provide my best unbiased advice. This conversation changed me too – after reflecting on my choices and considering my love for science and my passion for teaching, I concluded that I wanted to become a science teacher. I was at my best when I was teaching! It was an intrinsic happiness that I had not found with anything else.
What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?
I subscribe to teaching and science journals. I also go to workshops, conferences, and summits directed towards STEM teachers and early childhood educators. In addition, I am looking into furthering my education in the STEM education area through a Ph.D. or Ed.D., which will not only increase my understanding of STEM but also help me bring that knowledge to the classroom.
What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
My passion for science comes from my love of learning what is happening in our planet. I try to read books and magazines that portray discoveries. That inspires me to continue not only teaching, but also promoting positive stewardship of our planet. As an educator, it is my goal to show all students that no matter their age, the world of STEAM is interconnected, interesting, and super fun. It is my goal to share some of this passion with the educators in my school, my students, and all the families that have entrusted their kids to our school.
Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
I love spending time outdoors, either hiking, working in my garden or exploring new areas. One of my dreams is to sponsor an outdoor school for early childhood education or K-12. I also enjoy simple things like crochet, swimming, and sitting back reading a good book or watching a good movie in the company of my child.