Gabriela Flores-Figueroa

  • Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: A Journey from Mexico to Hutto
    Ms. Flores Figueroa's story is a testament to the power of determination and the value of education. Born in Morelia, Mexico, near Mexico City, Ms. Flores Figueroa moved to the United States when she was just seven years old. Growing up in Florida, her parents, who were migrant farm workers, instilled in her the importance of education and the pursuit of knowledge.

    Educational Inspiration
    "Ever since I was little, my parents pushed me to get a good education, excel in my studies, and continue my education beyond high school," Ms. Flores Figueroa shares. "All of us siblings graduated and have successful careers, and it was vital to my parents that we secured better jobs through education."

    A Journey in Education
    Ms. Flores Figueroa's journey in education began with the inspiration of her teachers. Their guidance and support motivated her to pursue a career in education. After moving to Texas from Florida, she attended college and majored in art, a lifelong passion. During her college years, her parents took care of her finances, allowing her to focus on her studies without the burden of full-time work.

    A Lifelong Passion
    After earning her bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Ms. Flores Figueroa embarked on a teaching career that has spanned 15 years. In 2020, she completed her master's degree in art education from the University of Florida. Her educational journey brought her to Hutto, where she found a close-knit and growing school community with a shared love for the Hippo.

    Cultural Lessons in the Classroom
    As an art educator, Ms. Flores Figueroa is an advocate for incorporating cultural lessons into her classroom. She ensures her students learn about diverse traditions, including those from Mexico, where she has deep roots. Her projects, such as Dia de los Muertos artwork and ofrendas (alters), help students understand various cultural traditions.

    A Celebration of Heritage
    "We create ofrendas with photos of loved ones and art in remembrance of them," Ms. Flores Figueroa explains. "These projects allow students to explore different traditions, particularly those from Mexico, which I am intimately familiar with."

    Promoting Cultural Understanding
    In addition to celebrating Hispanic heritage, Ms. Flores Figueroa incorporates lessons about Black history and other cultural recognitions. She invites guest artists to speak to her students and organizes virtual field trips to museums, sparking dialogues about cultural appropriation and the significance of art.

    Embracing Diversity
    To Ms. Flores Figueroa, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich history, music, food, and art from all over Latin America. She takes pride in recognizing the diverse backgrounds of her students, including those from countries like Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela. Ms. Flores Figueroa makes it a point to educate her students about the significance of September 15, the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the Independence Day for many Latin American countries.

    Breaking Stereotypes
    "It's important to break down stereotypes and expose students to cultures beyond their own," she emphasizes. "I want them to understand and appreciate the diversity within the Latin American community."

    Embracing Diversity
    Ms. Flores Figueroa recalls facing bullying and derogatory comments during her childhood because she didn't speak English fluently. However, she is heartened by the supportive and inclusive environment that students in Hutto now experience. "Our students are coming in with support and a community that respects and embraces diversity," she proudly states.

    A Deeper Perspective
    When asked about what she wants people to know about her heritage, Ms. Flores Figueroa's pride shines through. "I am incredibly proud of my heritage," she declares. This summer, Ms. Flores Figueroa had the opportunity to return to Morelia, Mexico, after 13 years. The experience was deeply emotional for her.

    Embracing Diversity
    "Mexico has so much diversity and has faced its fair share of adversity," she reflects. "We often hear negative stories about Mexico, but when you travel there and experience it firsthand, you come away with a different perspective. It goes beyond the headlines."

    A Cultural Journey
    Ms. Flores Figueroa's journey from Mexico to Hutto is a remarkable testament to the power of education, cultural celebration, and the importance of embracing diversity. She continues to inspire her students to appreciate their own heritage and explore the richness of Latin American culture.