Chemistry was not always one of Daniel Fernandez’s favorite sciences.
“I mainly found it difficult and intimidating,” he said. “But the more I exposed myself to it, the better I became at the subject and actually started to enjoy it.”
While Fernandez chose College of DuPage because it was close to home and work while the tuition was affordable, he took advantage of many opportunities. This included a summer research internship at Hope College, funded by the Resource for Excellence grant program through the College of DuPage Foundation. He worked as part of a team using short-pulse lasers, advanced microscopes and computers to understand what drives the biological functions of proteins and other molecules.
“We also studied whole organisms in an effort to understand the process of neuroregeneration, which allows some creatures, such as fish, to recover from spinal cord injury,” he said.
In addition to chemistry, Fernandez decided to expand his content knowledge by taking a wide variety of science courses at COD, including physics and anatomy and physiology.
“While most science teachers typically start their teaching career with a strong understanding of a single science subject, I started taking multiple courses in these additional science fields to give me the knowledge I needed to become a better science teacher and also help me become endorsed by the state to teach them.”
Having earned a Master’s in Science Education degree at Illinois Institute of Technology, Fernandez is currently at Addison Trail High School, where he teaches ESL students biology, chemistry and physics in either English or Spanish, depending on the structure of the classroom.
“I could not be happier. Not only do I get to teach my students science but I also get to serve as a mentor and role model to them, especially since I was also an ESL student when I first started school in the U.S.,” he said. “For me, seeing students’ ‘light bulbs’ go off when they finally are able to understand or make the content connections when learning, followed by their joyful smile and excitement, is what fuels me as a teacher.”
Fernandez is pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Science Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also is a teaching associate for UIC’s Urban Health Early Outreach Program.
However, he continues to return to COD and takes additional courses to help expand and strengthen his science content knowledge.
“I first took what I learned at College of DuPage and applied it to the rest of my education,” he said. “Now I’m using it as part of my job, and I will continue doing so well into the future.”