Student Profile: Maria Espitia advocates for students with disabilities

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Maria Espitia

Maria Espitia is a first-generation Mexican American graduate student pursuing her Master of Education, as well as education specialist credential in moderate to severe disabilities in the Teacher Education Program. She has worked in a variety of education settings in her community, most recently as a special education paraeducator which is where she discovered her passion for the profession. Espitia would like to advocate for students with disabilities in diverse communities and implement effective culturally responsive teaching practices that enable her students to succeed.

GGSE: How have you been spending time during the campus shutdown?
Espitia: During the campus shutdown, I’ve spent most of my free time both amassing a collection of plants and taking care of them! I knew nothing about plants prior to the shutdown and sincerely believed I was incapable of having a green thumb. Nonetheless, YouTube videos, articles, and books have helped me care for my plants. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a plant care connoisseur, but all of my plants are still alive in 2021 which deserves some recognition, right?

GGSE: You're aiming to work with students with disabilities in the future. What originally drew you to this work?
Espitia: As my fellow ESN cohort member and close friend, Montserrat Arellanes said, “You don’t choose the field of special education: it chooses you.” Initially, I had studied to become a single subject English teacher, however, I realized in the midst of completing my credential that it was not the subject for me. Accordingly, I left the program and, with nothing left but to start again, I began haphazardly scrolling through various job postings in the education field. The one that drew me in was that of special education instructional assistant for Carpinteria Unified School District. I couldn’t understand why I had this pull toward the position, given that I had no prior experience, but I decided to apply, and I was fortunate that the district gave me the opportunity. It was there that I discovered my love for special education, in particular advocating for my students, helping them learn skills that enable their success both in school and their communities, and helping others understand the field of special education.

GGSE: What are you planning to do once you graduate? Will you continue teaching or take on a different role advocating for students with disabilities?
Espitia: Once I graduate, I will continue teaching and serving students with moderate to severe disabilities, in particular those who hail from diverse backgrounds and communities. There, I hope to become an advocate for families, helping them find access to the resources and education their child’s need.

GGSE: If you could live anywhere, where and why?
Espitia: If I could live anywhere, I would live in San Francisco. I absolutely love the progressive culture of the bay and its embrace of all things eccentric and different. Likewise, the natural beauty of San Francisco, as well as its mild weather, provides the ideal scenery for a runner such as myself who enjoys hitting the pavement before a long day of teaching!