Sandra Martinez, a 30-year-old mother of two, is back in school.
Tell me what you were doing for work two years ago.
I was waiting tables at a café in Normal Heights, and I was pregnant with my second child.
And what changed? Why did you decide to go back to school? Did you just get tired of working on your feet?
Waiting tables is a lot of stress on your body. It’s repetitive, and there’s nothing mentally challenging about it. And even though the money is decent, I knew I didn’t want to do it forever. I had my B.A. in fine arts, and I knew I wanted to teach art, but I kept putting off further schooling to have my daughters and to take care of them. After I had my second daughter, I decided it was time to go back to school.
So you went into the teaching credential program at San Diego State?
Yes. I graduated from SDSU, and my sister is a teacher. I have a lot of educators in my family, so it was kind of always in my mind that I would do it. I just hadn’t gotten around to it.
What did you have to do to make that happen?
Well, there were tests I had to take: the CSET [California Subject Examination for Teachers] and the CBEST [California Basic Educational Skills Test]. I had to get letters of recommendation, and have a certain number of volunteer hours at a school site, which I did at my sister’s school in Los Angeles. Then there was the tuberculosis test, and the fingerprinting, all that kind of thing. Everything cost money. It was a long process.
And what was the program like?
It was a lot of work. I took about 19 units a semester. I worked full-time as a student teacher Monday through Friday, and I took my courses at night, about three times a week. It was just a year, and now I have my teaching certificate.
How did you pay for it? Did you keep working at the restaurant?
No. I took out student loans. I didn’t have time for anything else but student teaching, classes, and homework!
And now you’re heading back to school?
I decided to go ahead and get my master’s in liberal arts and sciences right away while my daughters are still young. Childcare is so expensive. If I were to get a teaching job now without a master’s degree, my whole paycheck would go to childcare. But while I’m in school, I get a discount at the SDSU childcare center. Once I have a master’s, it will bump me up into a new pay scale. Plus, once I get a job, I don’t want to have to worry about going back to school again. I want to get it over with now.
Are you going to work while you’re in school this time?
Yes, I’m back at the café, and I’ll probably see about some substitute teaching positions, too. But I have to say, it’s a lot easier waiting tables knowing that it’s not forever. I mean, I still complain that my back and my feet hurt at the end of a shift, but I keep it in my mind that it’s a short-term thing.
Do you have any advice for others out there looking to make a change, or further their education?
I’d say it’s never too late. You just have to be willing to make the sacrifice. It’s going to be rough, worrying about income and so on, but getting an education means you’re investing in your future. Even though the next five years of your life might be tough, it’s going to be beneficial in the long run. School in itself is a big accomplishment, and future employers are going to look at your degree and know that you’re determined to succeed.