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Fabiola Solorzano, C'20: A Quiet Leader

“Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Fabiola Solorzano, C’20. Even at a young age, she knew who she wanted to become.

rocking-chair-fab--cook-2-in-text.jpgThe elementary education major and Spanish minor shared details of playing teacher with her younger sister and volunteering to read books to her sister’s classroom. “As I got older, I realized that a teacher’s purpose is not only to teach academics, but to help students grow in all different aspects of their life.”

This fall, Solorzano will have the classroom she has dreamed about since childhood and teach first graders at Jackson Road Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Solorzano credited the Career Center’s on-campus recruitment opportunities for her initial interview and job offer from Montgomery County Public Schools. She also thankfully acknowledged her 34 undergraduate School of Education classmates; Elizabeth Monahan, director of the Center for Catholic School Excellence; Michelle Ohanian, Ph.D., professor of education; and Carolyn Cook, Ph.D, a very special professor, mentor and friend. 

Before she chose the Mount, Solorzano visited for an admissions’ overnight experience. “In the span of 24 hours, the Mount felt like home to me, and I just simply knew it was where I wanted to be for the next four years and where I wanted to start my collegiate journey.”

While she describes herself as shy and reserved, Solorzano got involved at the Mount and quickly made friends and made a difference. She joined the Mount’s Student Organization of Latinos (SOL). “I have always taken pride in my Latinx identity. I wanted to help promote as well as educate others about the beauty that our culture has to offer,” she said. She was also a student leader in Activities Management Program for three years. But it was through service work in Belize with the Office of Social Justice where she someone who would change the landscape of her teaching journey.

A Professor, A Mentor, A Friend

“Dr. Carolyn Cook and Fabiola Solorzano met on a study abroad trip to Belize in 2017,” said Dean of the School of Education Barbara Marinak, Ph.D. “They bonded around their passion for education and children’s literature. Dr. Cook became Fabiola’s academic advisor and later her professor. Through the years, they would meet often to discuss literature and the experiences Fabiola was having during field experiences and internships.”

Solorzano said Cook’s warm and youthful spirit made it easy for them to form a unique bond. “Growing up, my shyness and quietness have always gotten the best of me. Dr. Cook saw through my shyness and quiet demeanor and saw my full potential as a student and a future educator,” she explained.

This year, Solorzano was a recipient of the Dr. Judy Ramoy Johnstone Endowed Prize that recognizes a senior teacher candidate, chosen by the School of Education, who embodies the qualities of leadership, initiative, creative thinking, respect for others and a love of literacy.

Leading With Quiet Confidence

“As I have had her in my courses through her education program, I have seen her grow in knowledge and confidence. She is a quiet leader who will be an awesome teacher with her bilingual ability along with the skills and the experiences she has had at the Mount,” Cook said.

Solorzano described Cook’s classroom as engaging and a place where no one is too old to listen to a children’s story. “When the semester began to feel overwhelming, I always looked forward to attending Dr. Cook’s classes,” she said. 

After nearly 40 years of teaching, from preschool to university, Cook retired this year. “My 13 years at the Mount have been awesome,” she said.

A Gift

When the pair met earlier in the semester to catch up, Cook shared the news of her retirement. “She asked if I would like her rocking chair for my own classroom. I was extremely honored because she could have asked anyone to have it, but she chose me,” said Solorzano, who noted that whenever she would go visit Cook’s office, "that green rocking chair would always be in the corner.”

In fact, the rocking chair was for Cook’s third grade classroom in Shippensburg in 1998. “I enjoyed reading many books to my students from that chair. My students used it to share the stories they wrote,” Cook said.

“Although all my students are special, because I have traveled with, lived with and learned with Fab, she has a special place in my heart,” Cook said. She also gave Solorzano a bag of books for her classroom library along with other teaching supplies.

Empowering Future Storytellers

“I want to help future students realize that they are capable of achieving their full potential and leaving an impact on the world no matter their cultural background, socio-economic status, physical and/or mental ability,” Solorzano said.

She is equipped with good literature, a cozy reading chair, lessons of her experiences and the wisdom and well wishes of her professors. Like the final pages of a long-awaited ending, she’s ready.

“Dr. Cook always motivated me to be the best version of myself. I hope to one day have that same impact on my future students. I’m very eager to meet them this fall!” And no matter what, she’ll always have Cook beside her.