Student Spotlight: Nancy Salto ('16)

Published on Nov 10, 2015

By Keisa Reynolds ('15)

Nancy Salto (‘16) is an aspiring teacher from the South Side of Chicago who sees herself in Chicago public schools students. Prior to starting at Columbia College Chicago, Salto wasn’t familiar with the Loop and couldn’t navigate her way to campus—it was a different world. Four years later, Salto has excelled at Columbia and earned the honor of being a Golden Apple Teaching Scholar, a scholarship program for promising high school seniors and college underclassmen who want to work in high-needs schools.

Salto is currently earning a certification that will allow her to teach infant to eight-year-old children while student teaching in a third grade classroom. Being a product of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) allows her to reflect on her experiences and make sure classrooms are healthy learning environments for students.

What led you to pursuing a major in Education?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It was between fiction writing and education. I started my education classes and was overwhelmed by how much I loved it.

How has being a student at Columbia influenced your understanding of education?
Being at Columbia gives a totally different perspective, specifically because it is an art school. [It has] a non-traditional way of teaching and I think that perspective is what is going to help me get through a lot. I’m not focusing on traditional schooling, it’s more open to children.

What kind of teacher do you hope to be?
A good one! Someone that’s not overwhelmed constantly by the administration and the bureaucracy, and somehow manages to keep my head levelled. Supportive, helpful, and approachable.

If you could design a school, how would it look and operate?
I think I would want something open, with glass and wood, and multiple levels appropriate for children. [Education students] study the Reggio-Emilia Approach, so we’ve spent some time in Reggio [Italy]. We went to a school with brick and glass from the outside, it was very beautiful and modern. Then we came through the front door and there was a big tree inside the school; it hangs over all the classrooms. Each classroom had two floors. On the first floor there’s all sorts of stuff in there, then a small staircase and alcove on the second floor. They can look out from the balcony over the main room. I think it’s important to have those kind of spaces. I would want it to function collaboratively, with a group of teachers that lead the activities produced by the [children’s] interests and abilities, so not necessarily having something that’s preordained that they need to know by time they are this age or this age.

What inspires and/or motivates you to stay in education?
I identify with a lot of the children that I teach and have taught. I think that motivates me because I see myself in them, I see all the potential they have.

What is your advice to aspiring teachers?
Work hard.