Lopez bringing youth together

There’s a new ELL teacher at ARHS this year, Ms. Stephani Lopez. 

“I love being an ELL teacher at ARHS because the students in my classes come from so many different countries,” said Lopez.  “I have students from Cape Verde, El Salvador, Ecuador, China, Vietnam, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Egypt and Rwanda.”

She also said it’s beautiful to see how “young people from diverse backgrounds can come together in my classroom” and find common ground. 

Lopez described her ELL department as “awesome.” “We’re pretty small, since there’s only three of us, but I can always count on them if I have a question or need a bit of extra support,” she said. While Lopez said that she wouldn’t say that her job has been easy, she’s “as confident as a 25-year old first year teacher can be.” 

“What makes the job daunting is remembering that there are students who are relying on you to help guide them,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t have all the answers but I try my best and hopefully my students can see that.”  

When Lopez was younger, her dream job was to be a famous singer. “As I got older I decided that I either wanted to become a social worker or a teacher. I gladly chose teaching,” said Lopez. 

If she could vacation anywhere, she would definitely go to the Dominican Republic because her parents are from there and most of her extended family lives there. “I haven’t visited in eight years so I think I’m due for a trip soon,” she said.

Lopez feels like she learned her biggest life lessons and faced the biggest obstacles in her family. “My mother taught me growing up to help as much as I can, when I can. If you live your life with a giving heart than you will always live in abundance,” she said.

However, she didn’t always have an easy relationship with her mom. When she came out at age 17, she said it was difficult. “My sisters took the news lightly and were supportive of me, but my mother was a different story,” she said. “We had an incredibly rough patch and it was really difficult for her to understand me.” 

Over time, things have increasingly gotten better, which is due in large part to her mother “educating herself and keeping an open mind and genuinely loving me enough to find a way to understand.”

 Another obstacle she overcame was growing up as a first-generation immigrant. 

“It was really challenging because I never really felt like I belonged to American culture, but I also never felt like I belonged to Dominican culture,” she said. “I spent a large part of my life trying to find a balance of both. I ultimately realized that I don’t have to fully commit to one side of who I am. I have roots in two different places and am allowed to be a beautiful blend of both.” 

One person that she relies on is her older sister, Anny. “She is the only person I know who answers the phone within the first three rings,” she said. “She’s so reliable that I put her down as my emergency contact!

Lopez said she has some musical talents including beatboxing and singing a capella. Unsurprisingly, her favorite subject in school was music; she started playing clarinet when she was nine years old and continued throughout the years. 

“I went to a performing arts high school where I had the opportunity to take several courses revolving music like, music theory, keyboarding, music history,” she said. “I was also a part of many musical ensembles such as Symphonic Band, Chamber Music and Jazz Band.” 

She still loves all kinds of music but specifically, neo-soul and R&B. “My favorite artists include Hiatus Kaiyote, Anderson Paak, Kehlani and Corinne Bailey Rae,” she said. 

Lopez also enjoys movies and books. Her favorite book is Love, Rosie, by Cecilia Ahern and her favorite movie is “13 Going on 30.” 

“The movie isn’t a cinematic masterpiece but, it reminds me of a time when life was simpler,” she said. 

When not teaching, Ms. Lopez likes to relax and enjoy pizza, and or her favorite dessert, “a tie between pecan pie and cheesecake.” 

She hates scary movies, loves the color yellow, and likes hot chocolate.