GIVING TO BAYLOR: Back at Home
by Collyn Sebastian
As 10-year-old Genesis Santos sat in her homeroom desk at Bell’s Hill Elementary, she had no idea where her future career choice would lead her. As a junior at Baylor last fall, Genesis walked through the same doors of Bell’s Hill every day, but this time, she was there to teach. An elementary education major, Santos is a “Teaching Associate” this year, gaining hands-on experience by teaching in a local school four mornings each week, and her fall placement was Bell’s Hill.
“It was a full circle moment, and I knew it was God’s way of showing me that I am right where I am meant to be,” Santos said. “When I was a student at Bell’s Hill, we had Baylor students in our class, but I didn’t think I was going to be in their shoes one day. It all felt surreal, and I loved every second of it.”
Knowing the impact education had on her, Santos made sure that every second grader in her class knew they were loved so they would believe in themselves to accomplish anything.
“I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old,” Santos said. “My aunt was a teacher, and she would bring me to her classroom, where I got to see behind the scenes of teaching.” Santos also found inspiration in the steady support she received from teachers year after year. She said her parents and the Latino community motivate her to become a role model for others.
Santos graduated from University High School in Waco ISD and McLennan Community College simultaneously with honors in 2021. At Baylor, she receives several scholarships, including the Trailblazer Scholarship and the Provost’s Gold Scholarship, and she was a recipient of the Baylor Round Table Scholarship. From the School of Education, she receives help from three endowed funds — the William and Darlene Hallisey Scholarship, Sue Wood Scholarship, and Lisa Wagner memorial Scholarship.
“I am incredibly blessed and forever grateful,” she said. “Scholarships have allowed me to focus on my classes, pedagogy, my students, and extracurricular activities. They were my key to attending Baylor and have alleviated my financial concerns and represent some of my proudest accomplishments.”
Santos’ list of accomplishments is stacking up — she is a McNair Scholar and earned the honor of presenting this semester at the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education. She recently received an award from the National Science Foundation through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program to perform research in the field of informal STEM education, with a theme of advancing social justice and equality. She will spend 10 weeks in the research program this summer at TERC, a Boston-based independent, research-based nonprofit organization focused on STEM learning. She said her experience teaching engineering and science at Bell’s Hill inspired her to apply to the program.
Dr. Tracy Jones, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, has witnessed Santos’ progress at Baylor and supervised her work at Bell’s Hill.
“It has been amazing to watch her thrive,” Jones said. “I went into her classroom this past fall to watch her, and she had totally engaged all the second graders. I truly believe it is a testament to her natural abilities as not only a leader, but an educator.”
Both Jones and Santos are first-generation college students, so they connected quickly through Baylor’s First in Line Success Academy, which Jones has been involved with since 2014. Eventually the two may have even more in common.
“After teaching and earning a PhD, I see myself working in higher education as a professor or program director, focusing on college access and success for first-generation college students,” Santos said. “The community is full of individuals who are similar to me, and I hope to inspire them to pursue higher education, remain tenacious, and not listen to naysayers.”