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Donna North High School Teacher Thania Chapa is a big fan of the legendary Michelangelo. So much so, that Chapa wakes up every day focused on accomplishing what this renowned artist once said.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” These powerful words made the top 10 list of popular quotes written by Michelangelo. Chapa said she stands by them and always challenges her students to do the same.

“This is my favorite quote that I relate to education. I have it posted in my classroom. I explain to my students that they should never settle for the minimum. Instead, they should always aim high. I’m living testimony. I pushed myself to set a higher goal and was able to achieve it. Now, I motivate my students to do the same.”

Chapa, who teaches math in the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) program at DNHS, said she was happy with her undergraduate degree, but decided to challenge herself and attempt graduate school. She applied, but not just to any school. She sought acceptance into Harvard University’s Extension School. After completing prerequisite courses, she made it into the program.2

“I had self-doubt because it’s Harvard we’re talking about. I struggled, especially with one of my classes. But, thanks to my friends and cohort, I was motivated throughout the entire process and pulled through. Looking back now, it was one of the best times in my life. It just makes me question if I can accomplish this, what else can I do? My attitude now is to bring on the next challenge.”

Chapa received her Master of Liberal Arts, Mathematics for Teaching degree this past May. This school year is the first time she will be applying her three years’ worth of knowledge in the classroom.

“I’m so thankful to Donna ISD and the Texas Graduate Center for giving me this opportunity. I can’t thank them enough. Education is something that I never get enough of. I love absorbing knowledge and being in the classroom setting. It’s one of the reasons why I became a teacher. I feel so much peace and so much happiness.”

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Chapa believes this experience has made her a more well-rounded teacher. “It definitely has made me a stronger teacher, especially when it comes to the way I question my students. You start thinking ‘I didn’t know that I could think this way or I didn’t know mathematics could be presented this way.’ It has helped me so much.”

Chapa said her students are proud of her and excited that they will be benefiting from her experience. “They’re very motivated. They can see that this kind of success is possible for someone of their culture, someone of their demographic, someone who grew up just like them. My family was poor and financially unstable, moving from place to place because we couldn’t afford our rent. But now, my students see my diploma and realize that this can also be something they can achieve.”

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