University of Wisconsin–Madison

Five Things We Love about Aissa Olivarez

We 'Heart' Our Students: Aissa Olivarez

1. Watching ‘Law and Order’ inspired her to pursue ‘law in action.’

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since third grade, and I’m quite sure I got the idea from television. When I watched crime shows as a girl, I noticed that the women in positions of power were lawyers. Later, as an undergraduate at the University of Texas, I took some sociology courses that sparked my interest in education and educational policy. That’s how the idea of a career in education and law came together for me.”

2. Before she could achieve her career goals, she had to go back to first grade.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to work on education policy without getting any teaching experience. Too many legislators never set foot in a classroom after they graduate, so they’re failing to address the most pressing and pervasive problems in education. My teaching tenure—one year as an AmeriCorps literacy tutor and four years as a first-grade bilingual teacher—brought these issues into focus for me.

“Now that I’m in law school, I can really see how policy affects the opportunities children have as they grow up. Language barriers can lead to frustration and then ambivalence in school-aged kids. It’s one reason we’re seeing such high dropout rates in the Latino population. We need policies that address bilingual issues, specifically in early education, in order to reach students before their linguistic struggles rise to the level of frustration.”

3. She thinks on her feet.

“Learning to be flexible with first graders has helped me in law school as well. As a teacher, you have to constantly gauge how well your students comprehend the lesson and, if needed, differentiate your approach as you go along. It’s the same with law school, especially coming in the first year. You can get overwhelmed with the course load, so it’s important to keep reflecting on your study strategies and fix or adapt what isn’t working.”

4. What she expects when she’s expecting: to succeed.

“Our first child, a daughter, will be born in July. I hope to follow the example of women I’ve met here in law school who balance school—or their careers—and motherhood. Their work ethic and determination inspire me. I want my daughter to know that by attending law school and eventually becoming a lawyer, I followed my dream and that she should do so, too, no matter the obstacles she encounters. Perseverance is the key to success.”

5. Allí donde está el corazón, es donde encontrarás tu tesoro.

“In English, this quote from the novelist Paolo Coelho means ‘Wherever your heart lies, there you will find your treasure.’ My heart lies in education, and in immigration policy. They are related in the sense that education, or at least the prospect of getting a better education in the United States, is often the reason families cite for emigrating: they want a better future for their children.

“Before I left home, I thought, ‘Put me anywhere in the world, and I’ll make a difference.’ Lately I’ve been thinking that my heart might lead me back to South Texas. My family has been in the Rio Grande Valley ever since it was still a part of Mexico—and my father never let me forget where I came from. Having been through the Texas public education system, I know the terrain, and understand the plight of bilingual students. I’m familiar with the work that needs doing.”

Submitted by Law School News on April 27, 2015

This article appears in the categories: UW Women in Law - Featured Profile, We Heart Our Students

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