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Jiselle Peralta ’13

Jiselle Peralta ’13

Jiselle Peralta ’13 remembers Mary Armstrong often telling her students that they were great thinkers, but that it takes physical action to use that great thinking to create change.

As a first grade teacher at Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Peralta applies the lessons she learned as a women’s and gender studies (WGS) major every day to influence the next generation of learners.

Her school serves a predominantly African American community in which gender roles are, more often than not, clearly divided, she says. In her classroom, Peralta strives to break through typical gender stereotypes, choosing to expose her students to all facets of gender. For instance, she does not decorate with “boy interests” like sports or trucks. Also important, she treats her students like equals.

“I am often asked if teaching boys is difficult,” says Peralta, who earned her master’s degree in education at the Relay Graduate School of Education. “My answer is the same each time: no. Society places us all into categories, and within those categories are stigmas and stereotypes that are difficult to debunk. I want my scholars to have access to and explore all things regardless of their gender. I try to steer them away from using terms like ‘that’s only for boys’ or ‘stop crying like a girl.’ I want my scholars to treat their peers with the same respect regardless of their identity.”

Jiselle Peralta '13 plays with children during the Single Motherhood course. The students held a Halloween party for Easton teen mothers and fathers.

Jiselle Peralta ’13 plays with children during the Single Motherhood course. The students held a Halloween party for Easton teen mothers and fathers.

Peralta, who earned A.B. degrees with majors in psychology and WGS, took her first WGS course with Armstrong, associate professor of English and WGS and chair of the WGS, the first year Armstrong joined the faculty. Armstrong’s ability to draw students into discussion made Peralta excited to come to class each day.

The multidisciplinary approach of the WGS program pushed Peralta to start “thinking outside the box,” and she soon started noticing correlations with what she was learning in WGS to her everyday life.

Peralta credits the WGS program with empowering her to find her voice and fearlessly express her opinions. Now, she feels the responsibility to empower her own students.

“It’s up to me to take what I learned as a WGS major and put it into action,” she says. “I want to encourage discussions and raise awareness of so many important areas in the WGS field that affect us all. The WGS program has definitely built that foundation for me and continues to guide me through my journey post-Lafayette.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Alumni, Alumni Profiles, Connected Communities, Diversity, Interdisciplinary, News and Features, Women’s and Gender Studies
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1 Comment

  1. Ajmal says:

    Thank you Lafayette for sharing such an amazing story. There is so much libral arts have to accomplish in this world. You just opened a window for many to see, how critical it is to put your education into practice, and make this world truly loving. Social engineering is the most difficult task. We all need such like stories to remain firm in our resolve in making this world a better place for all.

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