The Oregon Teacher Scholars program is meant to diversify Oregon’s educator workforce by offering scholarships to racially or linguistically diverse teacher candidates. In addition to the scholarship, recipients receive mentoring, networking opportunities and other resources.
Oertwich, an upper elementary/middle school education major and history minor born in Alaska and raised in Pendleton, Oregon, said the scholarship is important to break down stereotypes about Alaskan Natives.
She is pursuing a career in education to create more diversity among educators, giving minority students more opportunities to relate to teachers.
“My main push to become an educator is to help all students, especially those of the minority, to see that it is possible to pursue higher education, no matter their financial situation or the color of their skin,” said Oertwich, who is studying abroad in Norway this spring. “Every child should feel like they belong in education, no matter their circumstances or backgrounds.”
Peña Anaya, a Spanish major and secondary education minor, said the scholarship provides networking opportunities and will enable him to inspire students from underrepresented communities to pursue a college education.
“Growing up I never had a teacher that looked like me or I could relate to,” Peña Anaya said. “I never had a teacher that identified as Latinx, English learner and immigrant. Therefore, it was difficult for me to see myself in any professional career because my teachers did not go through the same experiences and obstacles that I have gone through — and still go through.”
Oertwich and Peña Anaya will receive $5,000 per year for up to two years to be used for education expenses such as tuition, books, gas money to support travel to teaching practicum location, test prep materials and living costs. They will also be provided with opportunities to connect with other scholars, build resume skills, participate in paid personal development events/conferences and network with potential future employers.