Catherine and William Reyes hope to influence future generations through teaching.
At Rhode Island College it’s not unusual for students to have family ties – from siblings who attend school together to children or grandchildren attending decades after their parents or grandparents. But when a mother and son are earning their credentials together, it’s a cause for celebration.
Catherine and William Reyes are a mother and son who chose teaching as a career to help shape the minds of the next generation who will someday change the world.
Catherine, a mother of four, is majoring in world languages education and she’s a high school Spanish teacher at Paul Cuffee School. William is majoring in elementary education, with a concentration in special education, and is currently student teaching at Harry Kizirian Elementary School in Providence.
When asked about whose idea it was to attend RIC together, William jokingly says: “Not mine. I started going to RIC prior to my mom’s decision to become a teacher.”
Catherine, who earned her degree in Spanish 30 years ago, says that she started working as a substitute Spanish teacher during the pandemic. A six-week position eventually became eight months. “I ended up loving the job and chose to go back to school to get my teaching certification,” she says. “I’m basically following in my son’s footsteps.”
Although mother and son have never taken classes together, they have been there supporting each other throughout this whole journey.
“I actually enjoy seeing her want to learn more and grow,” William says. “That’s something I appreciate about other human beings. But seeing it in my mom is pretty cool. It shows me that my education never stops. I’m glad she’s in school.”
Catherine’s father was a teacher for 30 years and her mother taught for about 10 years before becoming a full-time mom of seven. For Catherine, going back to school after being a stay-at-home-mom for almost 20 years has not been easy, but she says she’s very happy about the outcome, including her new relationship with William.
“What’s been really nice is to feed off of each other,” she says. “He’s helped me with technicalities like registering for classes, he’s been very patient with me as an older student who’s not used to all this technology and he’s given me a lot of insight from a young person’s point of view.”
The rest of the family have also been supportive. “My husband is especially pleased because he always wanted me to use my degree,” Catherine says. “It has also allowed us to share more time as a family talking about school and the different aspects of a teaching job.”
Although this mother and son will not be walking the commencement stage together –William’s graduation is in May 2024 and Catherine will get her certification as soon as she completes her student teaching this May – Catherine expresses pride in the career path that her oldest son has chosen.
“Teaching is a very demanding career and not for the faint of heart,” she says. “For both of us to be on this path makes me really proud of my son who chose a career that will show what we raised him to be – a confident self-aware person. He’s going to affect a lot of young minds. As Tupac said, ‘I’m not gonna change the world myself, but I’m surely gonna influence the minds that will change it.”
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