Nathacha Santiago-Prado knows how important it is for students to feel like they belong. As a young child in Fitchburg, her Puerto Rican family blended into a diverse community. But when her family moved to Seattle, Washington, she no longer felt like she fit in. She felt isolated by her skin color, and her accented English.
And so it was a relief when her family moved back to Fitchburg when she was in high school. She thrived again, and saw the importance of making connections.
Nathacha is the first person in her family to go to college. She came to Fitchburg State with an eye toward becoming a teacher, so she could be a relatable figure in the classroom to future generations of children from diverse backgrounds.
“Just to be able to represent my community is a great honor,” Santiago-Prado said when describing her professional ambitions at a university event in 2022. “I want to create a diverse space for students where students can feel comfortable to share their own experiences and their culture, and don’t feel like they should be silenced.”
Now, four years later, she will be that figure, but for many more reasons than just her identity. She has been a standout teacher candidate and a master of her content area. Completing her practicum in Fall 2023, she taught four different classes at Leominster High School, with students from very diverse backgrounds.
At the start of the term, these students and Nathacha were strangers to one another. But she completed her practicum this month with dozens of new fans, who greeted “Miss P” with smiles every day, members of a shared community that she nurtured from the front of the classroom, committed to meeting the needs of every individual student.
Nathacha tells her students they must never stop learning. She knows she, too, will continue to evolve. But her determination to make every student feel valued, and to know that they belong, will be constant.
More than 400 graduate and undergraduate degrees were conferred in December 2023. Nathacha Santiago-Prado's story was shared as part of President Lapidus' remarks to the graduates and guests.