UW PEOPLE Scholar Estefany Armentia Is Ready for the
Virtual World
Well-Prepared for Virtual Education
Estefany Armentia grew up and attended schools in Madison before
attending UW-Madison via the Information Technology Academy and
the PEOPLE Program.
By Jonathan Gramling

Estefany Armentia’s family moved
to Madison from her native Mexico when she was in
elementary school. And
while her education started slowly, her excellence allowed her to
move fullspeed
ahead by the end of high school.

“It was hard to grasp the content
just because it was kind of a double job having to learn
the language and then having to learn the content as well,” Armentia said. “For about two
years, I
went to the Verona school district at Sugar Creek Elementary School and I was in
the bilingual program. That
helped me a little bit more just because I could speak both
Spanish and English. Once I came to Madison and attended Huegel Elementary School, my
English
was a little bit more developed. They made it a little bit easier for me just to hear
everything and ask questions to
learn what was being taught to me. Overall, it was a good
experience. I definitely
had teachers who saw potential in me and pushed me to take
advanced classes and wanted me to pursue higher education. I think overall, my experience in the Madison school district was good.”

As a potential first generation college
students, what really propelled Armentia toward college was UW-Madison’s Information Technology Academy or ITA.

“ITA really just supported me through it all,” Armentia emphasized. “It opened up a lot of opportunities and it definitely pushed me to a different content that I didn’t
have experience with before. It’s a technology-based program. They try to introduce students of color and first generation low-income students to the tech fields just
because there is a low number of us in that specific field. They introduce subjects like coding, photography, graphic design, hardware, just a lot of different
technology-related topics. They also prepped us for the ACT. We had college-prep, so we were learning about different kinds of loans. They helped us with the
application process. It really was a support system for me throughout high school. I am a first generation student. My parents weren’t able to go to college. I am the
oldest in my immediate family as well. So it was kind of like an experience that I didn’t have to go through alone because they were
there guiding me through it all.”

On her own merit, Armentia was accepted into UW-Madison and automatically became a PEOPLE Scholar. But even though she graduated from ITA, ITA was never
far from her thoughts. By the second semester of her freshman year, Armentia was teaching at ITA.

“I was hired as a technology instructor,” Armentia said. “My main duty was to plan and execute technology lessons for high school students. During the 3-4 years
that I worked for ITA, I taught all of the high school grades, freshman-seniors at different points. I taught topics like graphic design, computer hardware, Microsoft
Office and how to use Power Point and Word. We taught them technology that would be helpful for them now, but would also expose them to different things they may
not have been exposed to before or master if they weren’t in the program. I know that a lot of students took interest in photography, for example, and started doing
that as a hobby after they were exposed to it. My primary job was to plan and then teach the lessons. But also I would say that comes with being there for the
students and being a support system for them. A lot of them are or will be first generation college students. And so a lot of the instructors were also first generation.
They often times had a lot of questions about high school in general, but also our college experience and how that was. Part of that was answering their questions
and mentoring them through whatever they wanted to talk about and to expose them to certain things.”

Armentia majored in elementary education with a certificate in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies. And in the spring of 2020, Armentia was set to do her practicum at Toki
Middle School.

“Our first day was the first week of February,” Armentia said. “We started out in the actual school building. I was there all day every day. And then a week or so
before spring break for MMSD happened was when it was decided to go virtual. I had about 1-2 months in person teaching and then after that it was just virtual for
the rest of my student teaching experience. ITA prepared me for the virtual classroom in the sense that I had a little bit more knowledge on the technology that we
used. But definitely, there were some programs that I had never used before. It was kind of a learning experience for me at the same time.”

Even though she was technology proficient, the lack of in-person social interaction was a challenge.

“It was something that took getting used to just because we were so used to seeing the students every single day and always interacting with them,” Armentia
said. “And so going into a virtual classroom where we saw them through zoom once a week where we had this optional zoom call where they would come on and
talk and play games. It was kind of like the only face-to-face interaction that we would have. Otherwise I would be working through their assignments during the
week. They would email us or leave comments on their assignments when they submitted them. Other than that, it was the once a week face-to-face interaction. That
was the biggest change that was happening just because it was difficult for the students. Not only were they not interacting with us, but they also weren’t interacting
with each other. I know that is something that the students really struggled with.”

Armentia made it through her virtual studies at UW-Madison as well and graduated in December. While she didn’t land a job in the schools right away, she did land a
job as the coordinator of Centro Hispano’s Juventud Program. Armentia has made it through many different barriers since she was in elementary school. And now as
a college graduate, she will be able to help other Latino students over barriers to academic excellence, virtual or non-virtual setting.