Dayanara Flores can’t stand to see a child all alone.
“In my student-teaching experience, I’ve seen children get bullied, hang out alone, and want to do bad stuff to themselves because of it,” Flores said. “It’s something I won’t allow.”
The Elementary Education major stressed the importance of building a community both inside and outside of the classroom because at times in her undergraduate career, she’s didn’t always have that.
Being one of seven kids, Flores comes from a big family in Saipan. So moving to Guam to live with her two older sisters was quite the change. Busy schedules sometimes prevent the sisters from seeing each other regularly. And while Flores’ mom flies back and forth between the neighboring islands, it’s the times when her mom is in Saipan that are the hardest for her.
“It’s difficult being away from my mom,” she said. “Everything is just so much better with her. She’s so supportive of us.”
When it came time to transfer from Guam Community College (GCC), Flores essentially became the “new kid in school” for her first few months at the University of Guam. But when she began to get out of her comfort zone, Flores realized that the more she opened up to others, the more they opened their arms and hearts to her.
“If there’s one thing I can take away from my time here at UOG it’s that we’re one community,” she said. “Without my peers and professors that helped me out, I wouldn’t have survived. I felt really alone transferring from GCC, but there are always those people that come rescue you. That’s something I love about being here. Everyone treats you like family.”
That’s why cultivating a sense of community in her own classroom is a major goal for Flores.
“I’ve always had a passion to teach,” she said. “I just love working with kids, and with me it’s about promoting a positive learning environment and really making it a family because that’s just how the culture is in the islands.”
In her valedictorian speech at the Fanuchånan 2017 Commencement Ceremony held December 17, 2017, Flores encouraged her fellow graduates to take her idea one step further.
“It was the support I received from the people around me that made me realize that life isn’t so bad,” she spoke in front of a crowd of her peers. “So let’s thank these people - thank you to our professors, our friends, our peers, and our amazing families for providing us the love and support we needed. Now let’s take that ‘Thank You’ and extend it to those in our community. Let’s extend our hand to our whole island, our neighboring islands, countries, and to the world.”
For the near future, Flores plans to move back to Saipan to teach as part of her scholarship fulfillment, but she hopes that no matter where her classroom is—Saipan, Guam, or another place in the world—she hopes to continue creating a family-like environment for all her students to come.