Degree: Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning
College: School of Education and Human Development at the College of Arts, Sciences & Education
Elizabeth Aguila started getting terrible headaches in her mid-20s, while she was an exceptional education (ESE) teacher at Barbara Goldman Senior High School.
Doctors discovered lesions in her brain. The diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. Prescribed medications that produced different side effects, Elizabeth tried to navigate what she couldn’t or shouldn’t do anymore.
One thing she thought was impossible was pursuing a doctoral degree. Her disease could progress and worsen with stress. She only took the leap of faith because of her network of supportive family, friends and mentors, including FIU Director of the Office of Clinical Experiences Judith Cohen and FIU Associate Professor and Reading Program Director Joyce Fine.
Elizabeth’s research looked at how teacher preparatory programs in high schools affect teacher identity — or how students see themselves as teachers and their motivation to become teachers. The journey was difficult. On the days she didn’t feel well, she didn’t work on her study, and took advantage of the days she felt better to make progress on her research. Determined and focused, she completed her 180-page dissertation in two and a half months.
Today, Elizabeth is a teacher at Hialeah Gardens High School — where she started an academy of education that is part of a Career and Technical Education program that prepares high school students for careers in education through an on-campus preschool.
Now, Elizabeth is ready for the next step of her journey. She dreams of working in higher education and continuing to do research.
By Angela Nicoletti
College of Arts, Sciences & Education
Nominated by Joyce Fine