Laritssa Cantu

Laritssa Cantu

Name: Laritssa Christina Cantu
Age: 22
Major: Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Elementary Math and Science
College: College of Education and P-16 Integration
Hometown: Edinburg, TX
High School:  Edinburg North High School 

Initially wanting to attend a university upstate, I decided to stay and be a part of the UTRGV community since it was closer to home and would be more financially appropriate. After four years at UTRGV, I can certainly say that I made the right choice in staying to be a part of such a culturally rich Vaquero family.

What made you decide on your current major?
Looking back at my academic career, there were always teachers who I felt cut me short of an equitable education, as well as those who consistently motivated and positively impacted me through my journey. I had teachers who tore me apart, and those who helped me put myself back together. I realized I wanted to become an educator because I knew I could give my students the equitable and transforming education that they deserve, regardless of their disadvantages. Teaching with a passion is a skill that I know I will always possess, and I owe this particularly to the teachers who contributed to my development as an individual and educator.

How are you maneuvering being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 brought many unfortunate circumstances to many individuals, and even through these circumstances many students, like myself, still passed their courses, graduated, were siblings, were daughters/sons, were parents, or strictly just human. I knew that the pandemic would take a toll on my mental health and motivation toward my educational goals, so I dedicated time to creating weekly lists of tasks to get done, managed my time wisely with scheduled “brain breaks” to avoid overwhelming myself more than the world situation already was, and most importantly, accepting that I am only human. I believe that at times we need that downtime to stand back up stronger than ever! Communication with my peers and faculty also played a major role in my success within this year. Being able to talk to my professors and peers about the challenges I was facing was a great factor in my development as a professional, and individual.

What are your greatest strengths and what are some challenges? 
Some of my greatest strengths that I believe have been applicable through my time as a student, employee, and now educator is my ability to be resourceful, dedicated, and adaptable. I always make it a goal of mine to share my knowledge with the resources I have acquired with peers or coworkers, as well as the dedication I give to my coursework and students. Like many, I think one of my greatest challenges is my lack of experience. I am hopeful that this challenge will transform into one of my greatest strengths within time as I continue to adapt to different working environments and experiences.

What do you hope to achieve beyond completion of your major?
When I started at UTRGV I had hopes of becoming a certified bilingual educator, and through the late nights, endless assignments, and certification exams, I was able to accomplish it! Moving forward, I will be pursuing my master’s degree with UTRGV’s Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Elementary Math and Science program in March 2021. My passion for an equitable education has driven my success and interest in the field, and I hope to one day be able to serve as a mentor in the preparation of our future teachers. 

What do you like most about UTRGV?
The students and faculty at UTRGV are unique and demonstrate a sense of community. You can ask a random person for help when walking on the Bronc trail and they will gladly give you a hand! It can also be the way that we support one another when things get tough. The culture makes it welcoming to all campus diversity.

What does being a Vaquero mean to you?
Being a Vaquero means being a part of a family that lasts a lifetime. It means contributing to a diversity-accepting community who will guide you through their experiences when times get tough.

What opportunities has UTRGV helped you find throughout your community?
UTRGV helped me find amazing people through my courses, fairs, and most importantly, through my time as a Student Career Advisor at the Career Center. The Career Center has truly played a great role in my professional transformation by providing me with different experiences where I got to network with employers, school districts, and very knowledgeable individuals. Aside from these professional experiences, the staff at the Career Center have really dedicated themselves to promoting growth in their students as individuals. I have created relationships with my staff that I will treasure to the end of time and will always be grateful for.

What advice do you have for fellow students pursuing degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
DON’T give up! The pandemic was unexpected and called for unfortunate events but hang in there a little longer. You are always stronger than you think, and smarter than you’ll ever credit yourself for! Your degree and knowledge are forever, these tough times are not. Always remember why you started and remember that you are only human! Trying your best is more than enough.