Student Profile: Maritsa Enriquez wants to create a culture of wellness in her classroom

Monday, October 25, 2021
Maritsa Enriquez

Maritsa Enriquez is an M.Ed. candidate pursuing a multiple subject credential in the Teacher Education Program. Maritsa received a B.S. in nutrition with a minor in psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has extensive experience working with elementary age children, both in and out of the classroom. Most recently, her work as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional, and after-school tutor in Hawaii was what led her to pursue teaching as a career. Maritsa is inspired by the incredible imagination children have. Along with creating a culturally sustaining pedagogy, she hopes to weave elements of her passion and background in wellness into her classroom environment. Maritsa strives to incorporate themes of kindness, compassion, exploration, and lifelong learning into her teaching.

GGSE: How did nutrition science become important to you?

Enriquez: Nutrition became very important to me at a young age for several reasons. I grew up watching my dad cook homemade meals every night, so food has always been something that I’ve felt connected to. Additionally, I grew up playing competitive sports; fueling my body with a balanced diet significantly improved my athletic performance over time. From there, my passion for health as a whole grew steadily. I remember saving articles from the health section of the local San Diego newspaper every week. As my interest in nutrition grew, I unfortunately had to watch the slow death of a family member from complications of type 2 diabetes. Combined, these were the experiences that led me to study nutrition science for my undergraduate degree.

GGSE: How do you hope to connect that interest to your work as an elementary school teacher after you finish this program?

Enriquez: I want to create a culture of wellness in my classroom. This will most likely come in the form of community building activities, drawing on aspects of nutrition education as well other holistic health domains. I plan on incorporating as much of the health education common core standards into my classroom as possible. In addition, I’d like to work with the cafeteria staff to collaboratively bring student ideas to school meals while also meeting MyPlate dietary guidelines. Further, I am also interested in workplace wellness and intend to advocate for tools and support needed to prevent teacher burnout.

GGSE: You lived in Hawaii for some time—what was that like and how might that time influence your teaching?

Enriquez: Hawaii was a beautiful place to live. There were white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and jungle-like forests. I enjoyed being immersed in the Aloha culture, which symbolizes respect, love, and harmony. While there, I was frequently called in to work at Title I schools as a substitute teacher. These schools were often within public housing projects where the demographic was primarily Micronesian and Polynesian. It was fascinating to learn about these unique non-dominant narratives through the lens in which students perceived. From these experiences, I hope to bring the Aloha spirit and an open mind to my teaching.

GGSE: If you have any free time, how do you relax?

Enriquez: In my free time, I like to do activities that bring me joy. To center myself, I practice yoga regularly. I also enjoy peaceful outdoor activities like hiking and going to the beach. A few other ways I relax are drinking herbal tea, putting my essential oil diffuser on, or practicing breathwork.