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Math teacher Jessica Torres’ immigration story

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Math teacher Jessica Torres.

Math teacher Jessica Torres.

Courtesy of Yearbook Pictures

Courtesy of Yearbook Pictures

Math teacher Jessica Torres.

Lily Morris, Reporter

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Imagine leaving your homeland in South America, and traveling to Miami at the age of 16, without knowing any English. Immigrating to the United States can be challenging. One has to make a new home, learn a new language, and find a path to a new future. Simultaneously leaving behind friends, extended family, and culture. There is no doubt that such significant change would cause a bucket of tears, but it also would spur the formulation of dreams for a successful future in America.

This immigration story was the reality for Palatine High School math teacher, Jessica Torres. In 1993, Torres and her family made the difficult decision to leave their home in Peru due to her brother’s severe asthma, her father’s job, and most importantly, a lack of safety from the hands of terrorists. After arriving in Miami, and receiving support from a local church, she and her family were given paperwork to live in the U.S. and relocate to the Chicagoland area. Torres began high school knowing no English in the middle of her junior year.

Adjusting to her new life was extremely troublesome, especially due to the distinct differences in schooling systems.

“In Peru, I went to a school where there were 40 students in a classroom and you stayed in the classroom the whole day,” Torres said. “Teachers from different subjects came in and out of the room. The following year you stayed with those 40 students and moved classrooms. The good part was that at the end of high school, you were very close to those 40 students. They became your family.”

“I remember sitting in the classroom, looking around and mimicking what the other kids were doing,” she recalled.

Proceeding a year and a half in high school, Torres graduated and enrolled in the College of DuPage, where she spent two more years improving her English language skills. She remembers feeling somewhat lonely, and not being confident enough to have a conversation with her peers during her two years at the College of DuPage.

Needing to complete her degree, Torres transferred to the University of Illinois Chicago, and her life began to blossom. Upon perfecting her English, she was able to make friends, and discovered a passion for math. It was in the Math Help Center where Torres realized that she was able to help others gain math knowledge, and became a tutor herself. Today, Torres’s love for math remains steadfast.

“I love working with students, making a difference, and watching my students’ knowledge grow on a daily basis,” she said.

She tries her best to be available to students who need extra help understanding the material, and always is willing to explain a concept more than once.

Torres indicates that she values the choice to immigrate to the U.S., even if at the time, the change seemed daunting.

“I feel blessed to be able to raise my children in the U.S. My kids will have a lot more opportunities here than they would have had in Peru,” Torres said. “It is more likely for a college graduate to make a career here, in Peru a lot of College graduates struggle to find a job.”

Although she enjoys her life in the U.S., Torres realizes that Peru will always be her homeland. Every other year, she travels back to Peru because she wants her kids to know the culture and their extended family.

“With hard work and determination, anything is possible,” Torres said. She claims to live by this motto because she has learned that working hard really does lead to success. It is evident that Torres knows what it takes to overcome challenges. Her experience as an immigrant has influenced her entire life, and imspired her to use that experience to motivate students. She recognizes the importance of encouragement, and constantly reminds students to never give up because persistence leads to success.

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