Have you ever wondered what your teachers were like in high school? In each faculty profile, we take a trip back to the past and explore what teachers were like ‘When They Were Us’ (WTWU). Featured in the August/September 2020 issue of the Patriot Post, this extended version recounts English teacher Mrs. Jennifer Bolaños-Cadenas’ story.
For some, high school serves as a time to explore varying interests and possible future careers, even if they don’t pan out in college. Yet for English teacher Mrs. Jennifer Bolaños-Cadenas, sophomore year of high school at St. Thomas Aquinas cemented the path she wanted to pursue, a route that would bring her to room 25306.
“My sophomore English teacher had a reputation for being really tough, but I loved her class,” Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas said. “I loved the stories that we were reading, and I found that I was always looking forward to sitting down with the text and reading it and discussing it. I had a moment, truly an epiphany, one day after leaving her class, where I recognized, ‘You know what, I know what I want to do.’ I could visualize myself in front of a group of students with a literature text, lecturing and discussing.”
Besides wanting to teach, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas emphasized the importance of family throughout high school, a value her profession of choice allowed her to emphasize. “It was a two-fold realization for me, that day during sophomore year, because what I also knew at the time was that I wanted to have a family. I wanted to have a career that would allow me to do something that I enjoyed and that would also give me time to spend with my children. From that realization on, it was full steam ahead.”
Outside of English, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas cheered on the football and basketball teams all four years. Cheerleading allowed Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas to bond with her classmates and family, who cheered her on. Highlights for her included the time travelling to the games, spending time with her teammates and primarily learning how to stunt junior year.
“My greatest achievement was overcoming the fear of having to learn how to tumble at an age where I’m beyond the kid stage of fearlessly trying those physically risky activities. Learning how to move past the fear and achieve something so physically challenging is really something that has always stuck with me as a marker that I can achieve what I set my mind to,” Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas said.
In college at the University of Central Florida, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas continued to engage within her community by opening up the first Latina sorority on campus, Lambda Theta Alpha. Taking a year to establish the sorority, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas is considered a founding sister. “It’s cool because all of the other sisters know the names of the founders, so anytime I attend a reunion, I feel like a celebrity,” she jokes.
Reflecting on high school with the experience she garnered throughout college and beyond, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas would tell her younger self to remember “that she is doing a really good job.”
“I would want her to know that she is enough, and that all of her efforts will pay off because she is a really hard worker. She is goal-oriented, and eager to please the people she loves. I want her to also know that it’s important to practice gratitude,” Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas said. “While she is certainly grateful for what she has, I don’t know that she understands that a deliberate gratitude practice is going to allow her to relax a little more, to appreciate the achievements that she has made and to enjoy her life as she’s experiencing it.”
Although she began teaching at St. Thomas, Mrs. Bolaños-Cadenas found her perfect blend of career and family here. “Working at Heritage is the dream for me. It’s an opportunity for me to do the work I love and to have my kids right there with me,” she said. “I have the chance now to appreciate the realization of the moment I had as a sophomore in high school. I’m here. I’m living it.”