Talon’ted Undergraduate Researcher - Brenda Villa

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan. 8, 2024

Brenda Villa
Brenda Villa
Brenda Villa is an undergraduate student at KSU with a major in elementary education. She hopes to be an elementary teacher following her graduation in 2024. 

Villa is currently working with Dr. Paula Guerra, an associate professor of mathematics education, and Betsy Barron, a fellow undergraduate student with the same major, on ways to include culturally relevant lessons in math.

Q: What is your hometown in high school?

A: My hometown is Snellville and I graduated from Brookwood High School.

Q: What is your major in class year?

A: My major is elementary education, and I will graduate in 2024.

Q: What made you decide to come to KSU?

A: I have a dance minor and I really love the dance program at KSU, so that was a big part of why I chose to come here. The campus is also very walkable, which is a bonus.

Q: What motivated you to pursue your specific degree?

A: I’ve known I wanted to become a teacher since middle school; I always helped tutor my friends and younger students. I decided I wanted to focus on elementary school students because of the awesome second-grade teacher I had who helped me thrive even though I couldn’t speak English. She inspired me to teach because I can also give that support to students, especially my Latino students. I had my first Latino teacher last year, and I want to be that representation in the classroom. 

Q: What research are you working on right now?

A: I'm doing undergraduate research for how to do culturally relevant lessons in math. I am specifically teaching symmetry using the Central and South American cultures such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and Inca. 

Q: Can you explain what that entails?

A: Over the summer, I worked at the Fast Start Academy, which is held at KSU. The Fast Start Academy is a month-long summer camp where students who don’t have the best scores or need extra help can come and learn, and a lot of our students ended up being Latino. While I wasn’t one of the teachers working with literacy, I did have the opportunity to teach them math and I decided to try to give them a lesson that they could relate to somehow.

I had the students tell me where they were from and even had them mark the place they call home on a map. After seeing where everyone was from, I decided that using the Aztecs, Mayans, and Inca would be beneficial as many of the students were from around the same regions as these empires. I showed them videos of dances, agriculture, and especially pottery and art. Using the pottery, I explained the concept of symmetry and how each side must match perfectly, and they understood that. So, then I had the students do their own symmetrical drawings, and the results were fantastic. Not only did they understand enough to apply the knowledge, but they could explain it as well. 

  • As a teacher, I feel like it is my job to not only educate them, but to also be a beacon of support for them.”

Q: What would you say your greatest challenge has been regarding research?

A: Collaboration with parents can be difficult sometimes, especially since there is often a language barrier. It can be hard to explain what their student is signing up for and what the studies we’re doing are.

Q: Why do you feel that your research is important?

A: I feel like my research is important because we can make lessons that are culturally relevant throughout all subjects. By connecting their learning to their cultures, they have a better chance of grasping and understanding the content before applying it. 

Q: What would you say has been your greatest success?

A: My greatest success must be seeing the results of my undergraduate research. Even though we’re still analyzing the data, we can see a high level of progress with the students' understanding of the material and being able to elaborate on why they made the choices that they did. 

Q: What is your favorite thing you've learned through this?

A: I've learned that I love to build relationships with my students. I love to learn more about their backgrounds, how they were raised, what they do in their free time. I've learned that I want to be that teacher that attends at least one of their extracurricular events, like sports events or orchestra concerts. As a teacher, I feel like it is my job to not only educate them, but to also be a beacon of support for them.

Q: What do you want to do after you graduate?

A: I really want to be an elementary school teacher, and I will eventually get my PhD. Then, I think I’d like to become a professor at KSU.

Q: What advice would you give to students who may be curious about getting involved in research?

A: Don’t be afraid. As long as you have passion for what you do and a want to inspire others to follow that same path, take a leap and then sure enough you will be the one to guide more people to do the same. 

— Alyssa Ozment
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