Teaching awareness with a laugh and a smile
Claudia Martinez is a Secondary English Education Major with incredible leadership skills. She is co-president of the Women’s Awareness Center (WAC), Collegiate Fellow for the Seventh Street Houses, a member of the Diversity Leadership Council, Zeta Chi Phi Sorority and Study Buddies.
“Claudia is a quality leader. She leads by example and takes the opinions, needs and wants of those around her into consideration when making decisions. Truly selfless, she is funny, sophisticated and an overall great person,” Mallory Shellum, junior psychology and public accounting major, said.
Her passion for the WAC has been strong since her first year.
“The WAC has been my home since my [first] fall [at Gustavus]. When I joined, it was full of wonderful women who were strong and proud and loud and funny and passionate. I’ve tried to continue that and live in that atmosphere and provide it for other people,” Claudia said.
“Aside from it being a comfortable space, it’s an incredible movement to know that its been here for thirty years, its seen the evolution of different liberation movements,” she said.
Her involvement in the WAC also led to the life-changing experience of the Vagina Monologues, which Claudia has participated in for the last two years.
“My [first] year, I felt like I was bottled up at the beginning and joining that production and being able to shout things like “vagina” and “clit” and “cunt” and all these things is so freeing,” she said.
She notes the way her position has evolved as she has become a leader in the group.
“The people around me were super supportive and at the time they seemed so much older and wiser because they were seniors and juniors and now I’m a junior and I’m hoping that I can portray that passion to younger people so they get excited about it,” Claudia said.
Though she knows she puts a lot into the WAC, she also gets a lot back.
“Hosting the events is a lot of work, a lot of organizing, but our names have really been getting out there in the last couple years so I’m proud to do the work.”
Though the show and the WAC both deal with serious issues that are important to Claudia, she also values the bonds she forms.
“It wasn’t all serious, it was full of jokes and I love that,” she said.
“The people who are there, we’re a family.”
Another place that Claudia feels connections is with her sisters in Zeta Chi Phi sorority.
“We know everything about each other and despite all the adversity we go through on campus, we love each other,” she said.
She served the group as new member educator this fall.
“We crossed two news girls and I was their mentor and got to watch them grow and remember what my process was like.”
Once again, Claudia is proud of the work she has invested into this organization.
“It’s a sisterhood that I feel was worth all the time I put into it,” Claudia said.
Claudia’s true passion lies in the English department. She decided to be a secondary english education major because, “I think that the influence that my English teachers had on me was always big, they were the teachers that I got along with best and I love reading and writing and poetry,” she said. “It felt like the most natural thing to do.”
Her decision was confirmed recently when she got the opportunity to teach for the first time.
“I taught my first lesson last week and rocked. I was really scared about getting in front of the students for the first time, but I was like, yeah, I want to do this.”
Though she has debated pursuing a Master’s degree after graduation, either studying literacy or multicultural education, this teaching experience showed her that she really does want to teach once she graduates. She hopes to student teach in Spain in the fall and feels that speaking Spanish will help her as a teacher.
Within the English department, Claudia sites two women as strong mentors: Professors Becky Fremo and Elizabeth Baer.
“They’re two strong, smart women who are so nice and willing to have coffee with you at any time and I’ve really appreciated that,” Claudia said.
Becky Fremo reflects these sentiments back to Claudia.
“She is one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever met, a student who takes whatever project she’s given and takes it in new, innovative directions,” Fremo said.
One thing that everyone notices about Claudia is her positive attitude.
“She enjoys life and has the special ability to make others around her enjoy it as well,” Shellum said.
“The thing I love the most is that no matter who she’s with, her energy resonates through the room and is extremely contagious. Her humor always catches on,” Jessica Martinez, first-year student and Claudia’s sister, said.
“She is kind, empathetic, caring and deeply committed to treating everyone she encounters with respect. She expects the best of others and, in turn, she brings out the best in all of us. She’s the kind of student who leaves a mark–indelible—on this place,” Fremo said.