UW-Green Bay’s culture of caring carried Frances Nazario in her journey to become an educator

The journey to a bachelor’s degree was long but fulfilling for Frances Nazario, who will graduate from UW-Green Bay on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but raised in Wisconsin, Nazario says she “feels blessed and fortunate to be bicultural. I am proud to be Puerto Rican and proud to be a Wisconsinite.”

It has also given her keen insight to the education system and those who struggle because of language or cultural barriers. For Nazario, an education major, that means rising up so that those she teaches will do the same.

“I love teaching,” she says. “My experience at current placement (Edison Middle School) in Green Bay, Wis. reaffirms it daily. The students I serve are wonderful, my host teachers have been so supportive, patient, and wonderful educators on this last semester.”

Frances Nazario
May ’21 graduate Frances Nazario

Nazario believes education is extremely important, and “truly it is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world (Nelson Mandela). It is also extremely important that students see themselves reflected in the educators that serve them,” she said.

“There is a large disparity in Latino, African American, Native American, and other cultural entities serving as educators. The more representation students see in their classrooms, the more we will inspire them to become future educators. I also believe that in that process there needs to be an approach in dismantling racism and inequalities in the education system. Bridging gaps and opening more doors of opportunities for all students that come from different socio economic, ethnic, racial, learning abilities and linguistic backgrounds.”

She also hopes to lead a classroom in which her students can feel safe and welcome.

“In me they will find someone that will always advocate for them, lead them, guide them, and teach them beyond content but the skills they will need to be successful leaders in the places they will end up.”

In a yard sign given to her by UW-Green Bay to express those to whom she is most appreciative, Nazario’s included her husband, “an amazing man who has held down three jobs so I could focus on school and family” and two beautiful children, Micah 4.5 and Levi 3, who inspired her to “complete the journey. “They have been such a big piece to my not giving up.”

“I also must give credit to my personal relationship with God. He has been my strength and my guide through it all.”

Her journey into higher education won’t quite be complete when the diploma is in her hand May 15, 2020. She is already looking into master’s program and has identified one (or two) at UW-Milwaukee that has continuing to look forward…

“I am interested in getting my major in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Urban Social Studies and Culture and Communities. I suppose that would be a double major since they are separate.”

In a moment of reflection, she credits her experience at UW-Green Bay for fueling her passion.

“I have been extremely blessed to have had educators that embody those things I aspire to be. As a mom I never wanted to use that as an excuse to not do work, or not participate. I was five months pregnant with my second baby (Levi) when I met Mary Sue Lavin. I was in the Phuture Phoenix class at UW-Green Bay, and her kindness and empathy were everything I needed to not give up during a semester where my homeland Puerto Rico was horrifically affected by hurricane Maria.

“The following semester I took a break to focus on my newborn, and once again that summer (2018) I was shown empathy and compassion when my advisor (Christin DePouw) came to my house because I had my hands full with an infant and a toddler. To help me plan the rest of my time at UWGB and creating a timeline that I still have to this day. If Fall 2018 I attended an event where speakers of the book Somos Latinas came to campus, I especially wanted to attend because the former principal of my elementary school (La Escuela Fratney in Milwaukee) Rita Tenorio had taken part in creating the stories that fill those pages. As well as my former teacher Berta Zamudio who has passed away summer of 2018. I attended with Levi who was just a few months old and them sharing their stories of resilience and perseverance as working moms, single moms and being Latinas in general. Mai (Lo Lee) from MESA held my tiny baby so I could stand up and speak as well as get to know others in the room. Moms with babies and toddlers get little to no adult interaction and being on campus, attending events like that one always gave me that. I will never forget that gesture.

Her time at UW-Green Bay, she says, has been “inspiring and transformative.”

“I am so thankful for every kind person I have encountered, every accommodating faculty and staff member that was more than supportive when I had to bring my babies on campus to finish projects, meet one on one for instructional support or just lend a listening ear when all I needed was to be heard. Lastly to the P.E.O. Reciprocity Scholarship and the Rita E. Nelson Endowed Scholarship for Education Students. Without you I would not have been able to complete my last year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone.”

Frances Nazario’s story, with editing by Sue Bodilly